Helping mothers have it all


The much-discussed article in the July/August Atlantic magazine begins with a story that likely will be familiar to any working mother. The author, Anne-Marie Slaughter, is at an evening work event talking to very important, very professional people, and all that’s really on her mind is the plight of her teenage son, who’s floundering at home without her. At the time, Slaughter was serving as a top official at the State Department, working under Hillary Clinton, who famously wrote “It Takes a Village,” but Slaughter’s greatest preoccupation in that moment was with mothering, and despite all her professional success, she was still wondering how to be a successful working woman.

Welcome to the club. Or, should I say, I’m with you, sister.

Slaughter’s article, aptly titled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” addresses a certain sector of women — the well-educated, ambitious, talented and highly likely to advance type. The women who succeed, but nevertheless don’t reach the top of the work chain, largely because of excruciating choices that they find themselves compelled to make: Volunteering at their kids’ school versus traveling with the boss. Being there at 3 p.m. for pickup and soccer delivery versus writing an extra exposé. It’s not that men can’t face these dilemmas, too; it’s just a fact that most don’t feel they need to at the same level.

Slaughter, an academic specializing in foreign affairs, admits that her two-year term working in the 24-hour work cycle of
government was an eye opener; her life at Princeton, despite a full teaching load, administrative duties and prolific publishing, allowed her flextime that most jobs don’t.

I remember the day I came back to work as a newspaper editor after the brief weeks of leave I took when my husband and I adopted our infant daughter. A parade of women dropped by my office to congratulate, and console, me. Life had changed for the better — and the worse, they advised. Welcome to the world of eternal guilt, was the message: You will never again feel you’re completely giving your all to your work, nor will you, as long as you continue to work, ever feel completely sure you’ve done enough for your child.

There is no single answer to the work-life balance when it comes to children — I have found that it’s a day-by-day process of trying to avoid the tipping point. Each woman finds her own way.

Today, as our daughter is about to turn 17 and I see her slipping away toward adulthood, I still feel the pull. Now it’s not so much about being a necessary presence anymore — she can drive herself where she needs to go — but I still need to be a presence in her mind, so that she knows I can be there quickly when needed. That I am there for her. And that’s what still haunts me as I stay extra hours at the office.

Slaughter writes of the deference people in her office felt for an Orthodox Jewish man who made a point of leaving early on Fridays to observe Shabbat with his family. And, she noted, no such respect would likely be given to a mother who simply wanted to skip Saturday meetings to spend time with the kids.

The gift of Shabbat turns out, for me, to be the resounding message of Slaughter’s piece. Shabbat teaches us that, religiously observant or not, we ought to set aside some special time — time to interact, to find peace, perhaps even joy, in our lives — time that is not work time.

I often hear younger women today talking about “feminism” as if it’s a bad word. A big part of what many of my generation fought for over the past three decades was the ability to achieve what men have — executive offices, respect and equal pay. And feminism represented that movement, for us. Today’s young women want something more — to avoid the guilt of the balancing act, as well as, perhaps, the identification with a sisterhood. They imagine a working world defined by a kind of human-ism that is not gender-defined.

And they share this vision with many younger men who are, as well, more drawn to engage with their own children. Willing to change diapers, to get home in time for dinner and to find some flextime.

What we all need, Slaughter argues, is what flextime allows: valuing that other part of our lives. Shabbat’s regularity offers this to us, but we also must assume the mantle throughout our lives. To believe that a deep breath can benefit all parts of our lives, including our interaction with our children, our spouses and friends, and even our workplace.

Jonah Lehrer, who writes brilliantly about the science of the brain, explains in his new book, “Imagine,” how great creativity often occurs when the mind is at rest. Plowing through those extra work hours without a break is not always productive; in fact, it’s often over that glass of beer, or in the shower, that the light bulb turns on. Perhaps even at the moment of stopping to watch your child play.

Lehrer’s brain science offers the answer to what true work-life balance might look like. If we can close the door on the office and go home — without turning on the computer and checking our phones and e-mail obsessively — we might find clearer minds in the morning to get it all done. We also might appreciate our families and friends more.

But as working women, we can all begin, at least for now, by taking a lesson from Torah: by requiring Shabbat observance — secular or religious — for us all. So you’re not just thinking about where you wish you could be, but can actually be there — in the present.

In love and defense


I have a complicated relationship with Israel. My younger brother made aliyah last year and is currently serving as a paratrooper in an elite unit of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), leaving me feeling simultaneously proud, nervous and occasionally nauseous all at once. We were raised in a Zionistic home with a strong legacy of Israel support — our grandparents collected money in little blue tzedakah boxes before Israel even became a state. My own schooling taught me the importance of being informed about complex Middle East issues; as an educator, I confront the media bias and hatred of Israel and instead promote positive messages about the country and her people. Through professional work, I also lead an annual student delegation from Los Angeles to Israel, where I continually experience the Jewish homeland through my students’ eyes. 

A 2007 study by sociologists Steven M. Cohen and Ari Kelman explained that American Jews’ connection to Israel drops off with each generation, leaving many youth alienated and apathetic about Israel’s future. Since that study, Hamas has come to power in Gaza, a barrage of rockets have fallen on southern Israeli cities, the world has shouted in outrage over the flotilla incident, the controversial and emotional prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit’s release occurred, and the United Nations bid for Palestinian statehood is ever looming. Yet, the majority of American Jews have not felt compelled to get involved and advocate for Israel’s security.

I surmise the reasons for this disconnect are in one’s upbringing, lack of Jewish education (not just from day schools but without the Jewish learning provided by religious schools, supplemental programs, camps and youth groups), and absence of positive, personal experiences in Israel that bind one to the land and the people. The silence in response to threats against Israel is not just limited to the youth, however. Many parents are not imbuing their children with support for the Jewish homeland because they, too, do not believe in its importance. Too comfortable and too assimilated in American society, just as Jews were in different societies throughout history before becoming a scapegoat, these parents do not see Israel’s existence as a beautiful culmination to centuries-old longing and an integral piece of our past and future.

Since Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War,  public perception of has changed from Israel’s being the sympathetic underdog that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust to a powerful and accomplished nation. Particularly in the last decade, there seems to be a misplaced sense of liberalism that breeds exclusive concern for the Palestinians, coupled with virulent anti-Zionism (often cloaked anti-Semitism), affecting Jewish support.

Despite the 7,563 miles separating Los Angeles from Tel Aviv, my connection with Israel is strong and my commitment is unbreakable. Today I can say that I have come full circle — once a student at L.A. Hebrew High School, I’m now its program director. Israel and engagement in the Jewish community has always been a common thread in my life. Even during my college days, I was vice president of Hillel and a student leader with AIPAC. My administrative work today includes teaching a politics and values elective called Jewish Civics Initiative (sponsored by the Panim Institute), which happened to be my favorite class when I was 16 years old.  For the past four years, I also served as the Partnership Coordinator for the Jewish Federation’s Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership School Twinning Program, which seeks to deepen the connection between American and Israeli teenagers to create a shared sense of Jewish identity and destiny. It has been amazing for me to head the programs that I had been involved in as a student and that had such an impact on my personal growth. Through my position, I focus on leadership training, to give the students the tools they need to be successful ambassadors for the causes that matter to them.

My students are the exception to the majority in that they understand the importance of using their voice to defend and strengthen Israel. When we returned from the Jewish Federation’s annual delegation trip to Israel in December, I was overwhelmed by the breadth of student testimonies that attest to the necessity of providing students with actual experiences that connect them to Israel. They talked about the importance of visiting and learning about the land for themselves:

“All my life I heard about Israel. How I need to be pro-Israel and love the country. My relationship to Israel was outlined by others, but now I can develop my own opinions on Israel based on firsthand experience. I own it.”

“What I loved about this experience was that I really got to connect to my Jewish roots and appreciate how we are all different but all the same.”

“Being pro-Israel means understanding its history, its present situation and most of all, protecting its future.”

“I never realized how such an amazing place can have so many problems and conflicts that seem to never end. I hope many things for Israel, but above all I hope one day this country will be at peace. I hope a day will come when all the fear will not exist and Israel can live freely and be secure.”

Many participants spoke in length about the shared values that both America and Israel stand for and how moved they were in actually looking at all accomplishments that these countries of immigrants have achieved. The group of Israeli and American teens discussed how it does not matter where you are from, Jews all over the world are bound together through their shared memories, and Israel is the center. The opportunity to actually travel to Israel cemented their feeling of Jewish unity and commitment to ensuring a strong Jewish future.

As demonstrated by these students’ thoughtful reflections, despite claims to the contrary, students do care. When an issue speaks to them, they are passionate. But when it comes to Israel, they need to first feel a sense of love and pride for the country and then be given the tools to defend her. We do not need to teach that Israel is always right or to support every policy, but our silence is inexcusable.

Many organizations are already producing effective programming and resources to explain why support for Israel is essential and well deserved. It is time for us as educators, congregations, community leaders and parents to utilize them in designing meaningful programs that educate the greater community about Israel. To create the next generation of leaders, we cannot simply provide talking points, a list of Israel’s technological innovations, or screen Israeli movies while eating falafel, nor can we expect support of Israel just because the Torah states it was our land for thousands of years. All of those activities may have an impact, but none can be done in a vacuum and expected to be successful in the long run.

There needs to be a multitiered approach to help students (both affiliated and unaffiliated) build their own relationship with Eretz Yisrael. We should teach the history of the Jewish homeland and facilitate honest dialogue about its ongoing challenges, while also celebrating its diverse culture and encouraging travel to the country. When this experiential learning occurs, as evidenced from the declarations from the students that participated in the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership program, the youth will be empowered to answer the tough questions, correct misinformation with facts, and articulately respond to the anti-Israel rhetoric in college and throughout their life.

“I will fight because no one else will do it for me, no other nation will do what is necessary for Israel to survive,” my brother once wrote in an e-mail explaining to family and friends his reasoning for enlisting in the IDF.

He is right. Our actions are what define us, and this is our opportunity to act as Israel’s guardians and ensure that the Jewish homeland we dreamed about for so long continues to survive, thrive and hold meaning for future generations. One need not make aliyah and join the army, but we must find our own way to be a voice for Israel, whether it is in the media or over the dinner table.

“Israel is the greatest story ever told,” said one student from the Partnership program during our reflection activity in Tel Aviv. It is our responsibility to be the authors of our own narrative and keep telling it to future generations. Am Yisrael Chai.

Erica Solomon is program director for Los Angeles Hebrew High School (lahhs.org).

Brothers reunite with hidden ‘sister’ after 65 years


During a teary-eyed meeting in Wellington, New Zealand, on Tuesday, 70-year-old Elli Mantegari met members of the family who hid her for almost two years in Nazi-occupied Holland. The reunion brings an end to a search that has lasted 65 years.

Mantegari, then Elli Szanowski, was only a few weeks old when she was hidden in the Amsterdam home of Johanna and Frits Hakkens in 1942. Her father had been killed by the Nazis, and her mother fled to Switzerland.

Toward the end of the war, Elli was reunited with her mother and sister. But the Hakkens, who moved to New Zealand in the 1960s, died a decade later without learning her fate. All they had were old photographs of Elli as a little girl.

“I’m still above the clouds. I am yet to digest everything. I’m very, very happy and grateful to know that I had people who saved my life,” said Mantegari, who now lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Mantegari met Richard and Marcel Hakkens, the sons Johanna and Frits Hakkens, at Wellington Airport. In war-ravaged Amsterdam, Richard Hakkens had been Elli Szanowski’s secret foster brother.

“She is my sister,” Richard said, “my mother, who had borne three sons, said she was the daughter we never had.”

“We are very grateful for the parents that we had. You can be in the most difficult situation and the outcome is a story like this … about peace and love and kindness,” said Marcel Hakkens, who was born six years after the war.

In September 2010, Marcel Hakkens had taken his 9-year-old grandson, Caleb, to see the film “Nicholas Winton: The Power of Good,” a documentary about the Kindertransport. Caleb was deeply moved by the film, which recounts how hundreds of Jewish children were rescued from the Nazis in World War II.

Afterward the family told Caleb how his great-grandmother had hidden a tiny Jewish baby girl and how the family had unsuccessfully tried to find her after the war.

“Try one more time Nana,” he asked his grandmother, Gloria Hakkens.

Johanna and Frits Hakkens had told their daughter-in-law about Elli, and Gloria had joined the family hunt to find her. But every road led to a dead end. Unsure of the correct spelling for Elli’s surname, the family eventually gave up the hunt.

Driven by Caleb’s curiosity, Gloria Hakkens recently tried again. After another dead end, she turned to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, which suggested she advertise in Aanspraak, a Dutch journal distributed to those receiving restitution and pensions as a result of the Nazi atrocities perpetrated on Dutch Jewry.

Lea Radziner, Elli’s sister, saw the ad.

Radziner, 72, had broken her leg during a hike and was laid up in her Encino home.

“Aanspraak was delivered to my home and this time I read it from cover to cover. I saw the ad looking for Elli and I thought ‘This sounds very much like my sister,’ ” she said.

A young Elli Mantegari (nee Szanowski)

After Mantegari got the call from her sister, she e-mailed the Hakkens family and set up a meeting on Skype.

“Marcel produced a photo of the little baby who had become part of their family and I immediately yelled, ‘It’s me!’ He asked me to hold on while he found another photograph. This time I gasped and told him to hold on. I had exactly the same photo.

“Before she died, my mother told me that Jo, our housekeeper in Amsterdam, had taken me in when my mother had to flee the country. But I had no idea that I had stayed hidden in her home for what was probably almost two years. And now Jo’s family has found me,” she said.

On a Sunday morning in February 1941, Mantegari’s father, Avraham Szanowski, went out on an errand. He never returned. The previous day, a German officer had been killed and the Nazis trapped 400 young Jewish men as retribution.

Radziner, who joined her sister in Wellington, said, “They closed off bridges and took the young Jews away. We were never to see our father again. After the war, we sought out information as to his fate. The Germans kept scrupulous records and we learned that he had died in Matthausen. The official record reads bronchial pneumonia, but we believe he was worked to death in a slave labor camp,”

Avraham’s brother, Jacob, had remained in Holland. He had previously immigrated to Argentina and was protected by his South American passport. Jacob received information that Avraham’s wife, Gitel, was slated to be collected for forced labor and he begged her to flee. She did, but not before ensuring that her children were in safe hands.

However, Ellie’s stay with the Hakkens family came to an end when young Richard Hakkens developed diphtheria. Ellie was transferred to the Dutch underground child protection system.

After the war, Gitel returned to Amsterdam. Since her brother-in-law Jacob knew where Elli had been hidden, Gitel found her almost immediately in the city of Haarlem. But it took a massive, desperate search to find Lea. Gitel showed her older daughter’s photograph to everyone she met and eventually the mother and daughter were reunited at a farmhouse in Horst.

Radziner still remembers that day, saying that her mother seemed like an absolute stranger in her eyes.

Reunited with her daughters, Gitel moved her family to Argentina. Gitel and Lea eventually settled in Los Angeles, and Elli and her husband made a new life for themselves in Brazil.

“We have so much to be grateful for. That two people can do so much to help so many,” Lea Radziner said of Johanna and Frits Hakkens.

Addressing Marcel and Richard, Radziner said: “If there were more people like your parents, this would be a much better world. Our children and our grandchildren are miracles.”

Gloria Hakkens added: “When hearing Frits and Jo’s story, people say it’s amazing. But this would have been a normal thing for Jo and Frits to have done. She would do the same thing today. That’s the sort of people they were. They did the right thing.”

Henry Benjamin is the editor of J-Wire, an online Jewish news service for Australia and New Zealand.

My sister Sarah


I live in Israel, seven hours ahead of New York. Last week, when my sister Sarah Silverman performed in Manhattan at Carnegie Hall, I opened my eyes every hour or two, and counted backwards. The last time I woke it was 2 a.m. Hmmm… 7 p.m. in New York. She must be doing a sound check. Or maybe getting dressed. I could picture her outfit, because before I went to bed we spoke on the phone, and she e-mailed me a picture. Did I think it was too casual?

My husband and I live with our five children on Kibbutz Ketura in the Arava Desert — where biblical prophets spoke out against the sins and hypocrisies of the time. As I lay in my little house under the expansive black sky dotted with bright stars, Sarah prepared to stand under bright lights in front of thousands of people at Carnegie Hall. As I slept in the desert, my baby sister was on a stage. Such distance. Such contrast. Yet our connection to one another runs deep. For me, these are moments of God. Two seemingly opposing realities — separation and intimacy — co-existing, each fully.

There are many times each week that I think about what my three sisters are doing. I count backwards and imagine where they are at the moment. I’m on kitchen duty — pulling clean plates off the dishwasher belt after dinner in the dining hall, stacking them as quickly as I can. Counting backwards 10 hours to Los Angeles. Maybe all three are having breakfast at Kings Road Cafe? Maybe Laura, an actress, and Sarah are on the set. Maybe Jodyne, a writer and producer, is at Starbucks, writing on her Mac laptop. I’m watching my preschoolers learning Israeli dances, my heart filled to bursting. Count back 10 hours … 11 p.m. Maybe they’re going to sleep. Maybe out with friends.

When our daily lives somehow intersect — phone, e-mail, Skype — I am happy. Lately, I’ve heard my sisters’ names spoken in my workplace here, on Ketura. Sarah and Laura are hosting a fundraiser for The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies — which is on our kibbutz — and where my office is located. The institute brings together Palestinian, Jordanian, Israeli, North American and other students for a

Books: Czech teen’s words and art put a face on the Holocaust for me


I attended grades one through eight at St. Thomas the Apostle School in Los Angeles during a time of great unrest in our country — the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., police brutality against war protesters during the Chicano Moratorium. Yet one of my strongest memories is reading excerpts from Anne Frank’s diary.

I remember being moved by the words of that remarkable little Jewish girl with large eyes who hid from the Nazis for two years. I also remember the horror of learning that the Nazis eventually found Anne and her family and that she died in a typhus epidemic that ran through the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Anne’s diary spoke to this Los Angeles classroom across the decades, across an ocean, across cultures, across religions.

And that little Chicano boy never could have imagined that someday he would grow up and fall in love with a Jewish woman, marry in a temple, convert to Judaism and send his son to a Jewish day school for eight years.

But what did Anne Frank’s story offer me and my classmates at that time? The nuns who set the curriculum knew. While it is pretty near impossible to comprehend the annihilation of millions, Anne Frank offered us a face, one child to whom we could relate. And of course, the questions came. Who would want to kill this little girl? Will it happen again? Could it happen to us?
Atlantic Monthly Press now brings us the English translation of “The Diary of Petr Ginz: 1941-1942,” which, as with Anne Frank’s diary, puts a face on the Holocaust through the words and artwork of a precocious teenager. Simply put, this book should be read by everyone.

Ginz was a Czech Jew, born in 1928, who died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz at the age of 16. His diary had been lost for 60 years but resurfaced in 2003. Ginz’s younger sister, Chava Pressburger, edited her brother’s diary entries, which were translated from the Czech by Elena Lappin. They cover the 11 months before his deportation from Prague to the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

Also included are poems, an excerpt from one of Ginz’s unfinished novels, articles from Vedem (a weekly magazine Petr started in Theresienstadt), as well as linocuts, sketches and watercolor paintings. There is little doubt that if Ginz had survived, he would have developed into an accomplished writer and artist.

Ginz’s entries recount the daily routine of a teenager attending school and spending time with friends and family. But interspersed among the quotidian details are observations that illustrate the tightening Nazi noose: “In the morning I did my homework. Otherwise nothing special. Actually, a lot is happening, but it is not even visible. What is quite ordinary now would certainly cause upset in a normal time. For example, Jews don’t have fruit, geese, and any poultry, cheese, onions, garlic, and many other things. Tobacco ration cards are forbidden to prisoners, madmen, and Jews.”

And there are poems with lines such as these: “Today it’s clear to everyone / who is a Jew and who’s an Aryan, / because you’ll know Jews near and far / by their black and yellow star.”

Yet, despite all this, Ginz loved to play pranks and possessed a wicked sense of humor, as shown by this observation written on April 20, 1942: “Every building has to hang out a swastika flag, except for the Jews, of course, who are not allowed this pleasure.”

Aside from his writings, Ginz’s artwork is noteworthy for its detail and sophistication. There is an eerie 1943 watercolor titled, “Ghetto Dwellings,” that captures a foreboding atmosphere difficult to replicate in words.

Ginz had a particular love for the linocut, which requires great control over the tools needed to carve images into small pieces of linoleum, a process similar to making woodcuts. In one of his Vedem articles, Ginz describes this art form: “As the entire linocut technique shows, a linocut is the expression of a person who does not make compromises. It is either black or white. There is no grey transition.”

In another Vedem piece, Ginz explains that even in the squalor and deprivation of the Theresienstadt concentration camp, creativity can thrive: “The seed of a creative idea does not die in mud and scum. Even there it will germinate and spread its blossom like a star shining in the darkness.” Ginz proved this to be true as he founded a magazine and continued to write and create artwork while in the camp.

Also included in this book are photographs of Ginz and his family. There is one from February 1933 of Petr and Chava holding hands, walking toward the camera, both dressed in thick coats, knitted caps and scarves to protect them from the Prague winter. The 5-year-old Petr has a determined look in his eyes, lips tight with purpose, as he leads his younger sister along the city street. His face is the face of all children whose lives were cut short by the Nazis. And it is a face that implores us to remember two essential words: Never again.

Daniel A. Olivas is the author of four books of fiction including, “Devil Talk: Stories” (Bilingual Press). His book reviews have appeared in the El Paso Times, The Multicultural Review, La Bloga, The Elegant Variation and elsewhere. He makes his home in the San Fernando Valley. His Web site is

I’ll love him like a brother … in-law


When I was growing up with two older sisters, the only thing I ever truly wanted was a brother — someone who could torment my sisters when I was tired. After realizing that I was the only reason my parents wouldn’t have another child, I was tempted to pray for an “accident,” but I quickly aborted that mission because the possibility of a younger brother wasn’t worth the agony of another sister.

It seemed as though my childhood quest to find a brother was hopeless until nine months ago. My wildest dreams came true when I received a call from my oldest sister saying she was engaged. Somebody up there must like me.

It also seemed that my years of being the butt of my sisters’ jokes were about to end as this man brought a much-needed gender balance to my family. But getting to know my sister’s fiancé was a very delicate procedure. I wasn’t just testing a potential suitor. I was also testing a potential brother.

During their year-and-a-half courtship, I examined our every encounter carefully, from how many ice cubes he used to the point spread after he beat me in basketball.

I knew what I wanted in a brother. He had to have three things to make it as a male in my book: intelligence, class and courage. Intelligence to appreciate a man like me. Class to train me how to be a player in the George Clooney mold.

And courage to protect me when the super villains discover my weakness.

Before he even proposed to my sister, he had already passed one of the tests.

The first time we met I wasn’t sure what to think of him. “I’ve heard a lot of good things about you, Jay,” he said. The man was a Mensa-level genius.

When he proposed to my sister, I waited for the perfect time to test his class: the Las Vegas bachelor party.

This information-technology professional, whom we were expected to wine and dine, ended up beating the pants off me in poker at the Mirage Hotel and Casino.

I had lost to him in b-ball and cards — not necessarily my strongest games — but I’d test him in an area where I excel.

As the seven of us entered a gentleman’s club off the Strip, I was thinking payback. I wanted to see how easy it would be to embarrass my future kin. This surplus of sin would truly prove to be an adequate environment to test his limits. Now he was playing in my court.

Compared to the rest of us, he was as reserved as a handicapped parking space. My sister would have been proud of his all-smiles-but-no-touch policy. The brotherhood we shared was apparently more important to him than the bountiful A-list “dancers” who surrounded us. Class? And then some.

I was shocked at how well he handled the situation. At that moment he truly deserved a hearty “yasher koach.”

As impressed as I was with him following the bachelor party, I still wasn’t totally convinced he would measure up to my expectations of what a big brother should be.

As the wedding approached during Memorial Day weekend, I knowingly put myself in harm’s way to see if he’d swoop in to rescue me. Would he exhibit the courage to square off against his own fiancée?

My sister and my future bro were fighting in the living room of our parents’ Pittsburgh home. As they were debating a minor sticking point about the placement of the kids’ table, I suggested they move it close to the bar.

My sister glared at me, the lasers in her eyes charged and ready to burn a hole right through me. He smirked at me, and then turned to face her down in the ultimate one-on-one battle.

“Baby, it’ll all work out,” he said, adding that he’d be there for her.

I realized then how much courage it must take to marry a woman in my family.
I still felt a little uneasy about accepting a new member into the family, even though he passed my three-pronged test. But when I saw my sister walk down the aisle with him during the ceremony, it dawned on me that it didn’t matter if I accepted him.

When I saw how happy my sister was, I realized that this wedding experience wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about creating a gender balance in my family. It wasn’t about gaining a big brother.

Instead, it should have been about my being a good brother.

As I stood by the chuppah, holding back tears that would have surely embarrassed me as well as the other men in my family, I thought about how much this man and I have in common. He is also the youngest child. He also has an older sister, but no brother. And he’s also a nice Jewish boy, like yours truly.

But more importantly, I knew he’d make a great husband for my sister.

Obituaries


Kate Altman died Dec. 28 at 97. She is survived by her daughter, Sheila (David) Aenis; son, Gerald (Sharon); five grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; and brother, Yale (Bobbi) Simons. Mount Sinai

Anne Bergstein died Dec. 23 at 90. She is survived by her sons, Ralph and Roger. Malinow and Silverman

Mortimer Berkey died Dec. 23 at 97. He is survived by his nieces, Lynn (Larry) Robbins, Lolly Coria and Barbara (Cal) Miller; and nephews, Burt (Helene) Homonoff and David. Mount Sinai

Gerald Bernstein died Dec. 20 at 84. He is survived by his wife, Dorothy; sons, Stephen and David (Patrice); and two granddaughers. Malinow and Silverman.

Irene Bistreich died Dec. 23 at 83. She is survived by her daughter, Wendy. Malinow and Silverman.

Abraham (Abe) Blumberg died Dec. 28 at 85. He is survived by his wife, Sadie; sons Eddie, Geoffrey and Aubrey; daughter, Beverly; stepdaughter, Ethne; stepsons, Morris and Colin (Sharon); seven grandchildren; two stepgrandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Eden

Miriam Dybnis died Dec. 29 at 86. She is survived by her husband, Henri; daughter, Monique (Moshe) Goldwasser; son, Dr. Sacha (Bunny); and grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Rachelle Elek died Dec. 29 at 87. She is survived by her daughter, Gwynne; sister, Eve Rosove; brother, Sheldon (Babs) Bay; sisters-in-law Phyllis and Rita Bay; nieces; and nephew. Hillside

Helen Joseph Epstein died Nov. 17 at 92. She is survived by her daughter, Joni (Monte) Gordon; brother, Benjamin (Ellen) Joseph; grandchildren John (Sun Xin) Gordon and Elizabeth (Jack) Stephens-Morgan; and three great-greatchildren. Hillside

Mildred Ettlinger died Dec. 19 at 94. She is survived by her sister, Bertha Carp. Malinow and Silverman.

Paulette Gast died Dec. 27 at 87. She is survived by her daughter, Nancy; son, Allen; four grandchildren; and sister, Selene Sheriff. Hillside

Sylvia Eleanor Goldstein died Dec. 27 at 89. She is survived by her daughters, Elaine (Berwyn) Bleecker Friedman and Rosalyn Gilman; son, Charles (Suzanne); eight grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; sister, Gertrude Sunshine. Malinow and Silverman

Sadie Grossman died Dec. 20 at 101. She is survived by her son, Barry; and two grandsons. Malinow and Silverman.

Ruth Hoffman died Dec. 24 at 89. She is survived by her son, Paul; sister, Gloria Wolen; and nine grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman.

Esther Karpel died Dec. 24 at 83. She is survived by her daughter, Susan; sister, Mathilde Goldstein; two grandchildren; brother, Morris Weiss. Malinow and Silverman

Esther Kaufman died Dec. 28 at 90. She is survived by her sons, Rick, Ken (Karen), Ben and Mike; daughter, Sonya Schus; and five grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Frank Lerner died Dec. 17 at 73. He is survived by his wife, Lillian; daughter, Shari (Henry) DeCambra; sons, Mark (Noreen) and Stuart (Karen); six grandchildren; and sister, Nessa (Bob) Wilk. Malinow and Silverman.

Leslie Howard Levin died Dec. 22 at 81. He is survived by his wife, Marilyn; daughter, Diane; son Jeffrey, (JoAne); and brother, Bill. Malinow and Silverman.

Libby Levine died Dec. 22 at 96. She is survived by her daughters, Wendy (Bill) Carpio and Julie (Bob) Sutton; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Bruce Liebovich died Dec. 24 at 43. He is survived by his sons, Yehuda, Mordy and Joshua; daughter, Ester; and parents, Ted and Shirley. Chevra Kadisha

Jerome Barry Ludgin died Dec. 23 at 65. He is survived by his wife, Rachelle; daughter, Debra (Scott) Klein; brother, Arthur (Bobbie); and sister, Janice (Mickey) Stevens. Malinow and Silverman.

Shirley Markson died Dec. 20 at 80. She is survived by her son, David; daughters, Stacey (Vince) Winninghoff and Peggy; brother, Marc (Louise) Monheimer; and six grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman.

Marcia Merritt died Dec. 27 at 66. She is survived by her husband, Dr. Michael; sons, Brent (Hilleri) and Steve; two grandchildren; and brother, Richard (Barbara) Fine. Malinow and Silverman

Sylvia Muchnick died Dec. 29 at 88. She is survived by her son, Dr. Carl; sister, Ethel Rosenfeld; and three grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Harry Phillips died Dec. 26 at 91. He is survived by his son, Frank; daughter, Sandra Schur; and three grandchildren. Hillside

Louis Pomerantz died Dec. 24 at 91. He is survived by his daughter, Doreen (Shalom) Cohen; granddaughters, Lori (Roger) Lampert and Wendy (Philip) Anthony; and great-grandchildren, Brian and Rachel Lampert. Mount Sinai

Susan Ponedel died Nov. 14 at 60. She is survied by her mother, Mollie; and sister, Ann Bourman. Home of Peace

Nathan Rauchway died Dec. 29 at 92. He is survived by his wife, Marly; children, Enid (Erlend) Graf, Susan (Harold) Fetterman, Michael (Audrey) and Amy; and six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Leo Rosenbaum died Aug. 14 at 86. He is survived by his wife, Gloria; daughters, Leslie and Lori; son, Louis; grandchildren, Alexis and Zachary; and sister, Janet Cornblatt. Hillside

Rose Sahlman died Dec. 25 at 93. She is survived by her friends. Malinow and Silverman

Theresa Schneider died Dec. 15 at 87. She is survived by her daughters, Leah (Gregory) Bergman and Diane; son, Alan; three grandchildren; and brother, Bernard Gershman. Malinow and Silverman.

Joseph Schwartz died Dec. 26 at 84. He is survived by his wife, Marcia; daughter, Sandra (Stephen) Brown; son Stephen; and eight grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Bella Smolyakova died Dec. 27 at 97. She is survived by her nephew, Yesim (Polina) Koretsky. Malinow and Silverman

Suzanne Stolnitz died Dec. 23 at 69. She is survived by her husband, Art; son, Scott (Cindy); granddaughter, Skye; and sister, Barbara Kantro. Mount Sinai

Joan Lenore Strong died Dec. 24 at 71. She is survived by her husband, Dr. George; daughters, Cori Persky and Nikki Shocket; sons, Evan Peller and Shannon; seven grandchildren; and brother, Dr. Paul Rubinstein. Malinow and Silverman

Edward Leon Vendt died Dec. 29 at 90. He is survived by his wife, Lillian; daughter, Sheila (Dick) Miller; sons, Jack Bellano and Steve (Cheryl); and two grandsons. Malinow and Silverman

Bess Warren died Dec. 25 at 88. She is survived by her son, Roger; daughters, Beverly Safsel and Rhonda Diamond; six grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; one great-great-granddaughter; and sisters, Natalie Apple and Grace Feuerberg. Chevra Kadisha

Thelma Weiss died Dec. 21 at 79. She is survived by her son, Michael. Malinow and Silverman.

The Journal publishes obituary notices free. Please send an e-mail with the name, age and survivors of the deceased to obits@jewishjournal.com.Please note: Longer notices will be edited. Deadline for publication isMonday at 9 a.m.

Holy Doubt


This week’s Torah portion contains a story that most of us skipped in Hebrew school — the story of Dina.

Dina goes out to “see the daughters of the land.”

Shechem,
the eponymous local prince, sees her, sleeps with her and vaye’aneha — sexually forces or humiliates her.

His soul clings to her, he loves her, and he speaks tenderly to her.

This begins a protracted negotiation, in which Jacob remains silent and his sons, Dina’s brothers, maintain their outrage.

Shechem invites Jacob and the brothers to name any amount for a bride price.

The brothers answer with guile, seeming to accept Shechem’s proposal with the proviso that he and all his male subjects undergo circumcision to become “one people” with the Israelites.

Three days after all the males of Shechem are circumcised, while they are still in pain, Simon and Levi, two of Dina’s full brothers, enter the city, confident. They kill all the men and remove Dina from the house.

Jacob’s sons appropriate the property of the slain and take the women captive. Jacob objects: “You have stirred up trouble …[with my neighbors] while I am few in number, so if they band together against me and attack me, I and my house will be destroyed.”

The sons answer: “Shall our sister be dealt with like a whore?”

The story raises many questions, particularly from Dina’s perspective.

Did she learn of her impending marriage? If so, from whom? What was it like for her in the three or four days after the rape and before the “rescue”?

How did she feel when her brothers stormed in, killing the men and taking the women who were to be her new family? Was this similar to the way she had been taken captive? What was she looking for when she “went out to see the daughters of the land”? Had she and the local women already forged the kind of friendship and alliance that the men were negotiating for?

Or could Dina have been a spy against the women? (“To see” and “to spy on” are the same verb in Hebrew.) Can we imagine her as a Mata Hari figure, conspiring with her brothers to conquer Shechem? Or did Dina’s soul cleave to Shechem’s as improbably and enduringly as his cleaved to hers?

The Torah focuses on the men’s motivations, yet these, too, are far from clear. Jacob’s political objection to his sons’ actions ignores the harm to Dina, the sons’ deception and violence, and the murder of innocents. Is Jacob cautiously protecting the clan after a traumatic loss, or has he ceded control and leadership? Is he indifferent to his daughter’s suffering, or so distraught that he becomes passive?

Are the brothers overzealous defenders of their sister’s honor (perhaps in response to Jacob’s passivity) and/or do they see an opportunity for a land grab?

On his deathbed, Jacob will condemn Simon and Levi’s excesses and bar the two tribes from owning land (Genesis 49:5-7). Is the crime that most troubles the brothers rape — or theft? The males of Dina’s family should have commanded a bride price for her in advance, and the brothers seem more interested in orchestrating revenge than in facilitating Dina’s release.

Is Shechem a rapist? It is certainly not typical of a rapist to love his victim, want to marry her, offer to pay any amount of money and undergo genital surgery to be with her. Shechem more than fulfills all the requirements later imposed on Israelites (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) who bed an unbetrothed girl without gaining permission first.

Perhaps Shechem, prince of the land, thought that Dina, visiting among the daughters of the land, was one of his subjects, and therefore legal and eligible to him.

Long before Anita Diamant’s “The Red Tent,” the ancient rabbis wondered if Dina chose — before or after the fact — to be with Shechem.

One midrash suggests that Dina was enticed by his uncircumcised body, and had to be removed from his house because she would not leave voluntarily.

Other midrashim don’t attribute sexual volition to Dina, but posit instead her extraordinary spiritual power: she would have caused Esau to repent had she been paired with him; she was Job’s second wife and healed him. Dina was indeed raped, but she inspired a rapist to repent immediately and completely.

The verb vaye’aneha — usually translated as “he raped her” — comes from the root ayin-nun-hey, which has two meanings: to answer or respond; or to force, afflict or humiliate, especially sexually.

Translating according to the first definition, it is possible to read vaye’aneha as parallel to vayidaber al lev hane’ara, he spoke to the girl tenderly (Genesis 34:2-3). This supports the interpretation that Shechem seduced Dina, rather than raped her. Similarly, it is possible to reverse the usual translation in 34:13: the brothers didn’t just answer Shechem with guile, they afflicted him with it.

It surprises me how confident people sometimes are about exactly what the Bible intends. What is meant, literally and in context, by “frontlets between your eyes” or “a man lying with a man as with a woman” or even “your neighbor?”

The Bible is laconic, allusive, ambiguous, layered.

It is not always clear to me, after years of study, which stories are cautionary tales and which are examples to be emulated.

Torah urges us: read again, review again, and don’t be so sure.

Approach with holy doubt, and humility.

Rabbi Debra Orenstein, editor of “Lifecycles 2: Jewish Women on Biblical Themes in Contemporary Life,” is spiritual leader of Makom Ohr Shalom in Tarzana. More of her writings can be found at makom.org.

You talking to me? When dogs are our best friends


I spend an enormous amount of time hanging out with my dogs. At the moment, I only have two, but at various times in my recent history, I have had as many as six. Technically, I believe, that constitutes a herd and therefore makes me somewhat like Jane Goodall — but without all those newsletters and research.

Back in those days, my house looked less like a spread in Architectural Digest and more like the badlands of South Dakota, especially during shedding season, when giant clumps of dog hair floated freely through my living room, not unlike tumbleweeds during a dust storm.

And yet I find it all very enjoyable. For me, living with dogs is kind of like living with exchange students from Neptune. We all try to understand each other, but the bottom line is that we are simply from different planets and most things are just outside of all of our comprehension.

That said, I still find it moving the way my dogs good naturedly attempt to live inside of my rules and limitations, despite the fact that most of what is being asked of them probably seems completely counterintuitive to them.

It was thinking about this sort of thing that led me to write my third novel, “Walking in Circles Before Lying Down.” My intention was to try and consolidate my thoughts and feelings about loving and trying to understand the dogs with whom I share my life.

The book is about a woman who so loses track of the direction her life should be taking that when she finds that she can suddenly talk to dogs, she starts wondering whether they are offering advice worth taking.

Dawn Tarnauer’s life isn’t exactly a success story. Married twice before she was even out of her 20s, she now has yet another boyfriend. But at least she hasn’t married him.

She’s still not sure what she does for a living or even what she wants. But after her second marriage crumbles, she finds herself moving in with her sister, Halley, and taking over her job baby-sitting dogs at a dog day care center so Halley can use the time to launch her career as an Internet-certified life coach.

As a roommate, Halley leaves something to be desired. She not only has many platitude-filled, life-coaching affirmations and body language techniques she wishes to practice on Dawn, but a well-documented attraction to sociopaths, having once dated convicted wife- and baby-killer Scott Petersen.

Then there’s Joyce, Dawn and Halley’s narcissistic mother, who continues to pursue a grandiose identity, this time marketing something called “The Every Holiday Tree” that she has developed with her Korean boyfriend, Ng, and is hoping to sell to Wal-Mart. Rounding out Dawn’s life is her mostly absentee father, Ted, who models his life and wardrobe after his long-dead rock idol, Eddie Cochran. He is mourning the end of his brief third marriage by scheduling two dates for the same night.

The one reliable constant in Dawn’s life is her new dog, Chuck, a pit bull mix she adopted from an animal shelter. When Dawn’s boyfriend surprises her one morning with an announcement that he’s leaving her for someone else, her world begins to unravel. Never having been dumped before, she finds herself sobbing into Chuck’s fur; “Now what am I supposed to do?”

She is stunned when she thinks she hears Chuck reply, “Come on! You must have at least suspected there was someone else. Couldn’t you smell her on his pants?” He then vows to take over as the new alpha of their pack, since he feels that Dawn’s instincts have proven continuously unreliable, claiming that he will use his much more reliable centuries-in-the-making canine instincts to help Dawn find better solutions to all of her dilemmas.

From that point on, Dawn realizes that she can talk to all dogs. Either that or she is going crazy. As she debates this with herself, it soon becomes a case of be careful what you wish for, because although the dogs have much to say to Dawn, what they consider good conversational topics aren’t always the kind of thing most of us want to hear.

There is also the dilemma of what to believe. When a dog in her care reveals that it is being abused, Dawn wants to act on this. But should she? How does she know whether the conversation she is hearing is real? What if the actual problem is that Dawn is delusional?

These are questions that I deal with in my own life on occasion. My book provides the best answers I can come up with.

If you’d like to see some reviews, I posted them at

Obituaries


Mildred Ball died Sept. 23 at 91. She is survived by her sons, Joseph and David. Malinow and Silverman

Albert Benaltabet died Sept. 28 at 93. He is survived by his wife, Allegra; daughters, Lynn (Don) Sonderling and Michele Smith; four grandchildren; one great-grandchild; brother, Samuel; Malinow and Silverman

Albina Bennett died Oct. 1, at 83. She is survived by her son, Dr. Martin; and daughter, Marilyn (Larry Mott). Mount Sinai

Edythe Bennett died Sept. 22 at 77. She is survived by her husband, Benjamin; daughter, Nina Cantley; and three grandchildren. Groman

Ann Boodnick died Sept. 24 at 94. She is survived by her son, Jerome (Aliza) Ben-Ner; daughter, Margartet (Norman) Arinsberg; five grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. Groman

Sheldon Cohen died Sept. 22 at 60. He is survived by his father, William; and social worker, Ivette Rodriguez. Groman

Selma Comsky died Aug. 24 at 79. She is survived by her daughters, Michelle Margolis, Jan and Andrea; sons-in-law, Jack Cousin, and Mark Margolis; and two grandchildren.

Sarah Decovnick died Sept. 22 at 100. She is survived by her sons, Stanley and Harvey; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Groman

Anthony Peter Merrill Dent died in July at 61. He is survied by his friends.

Gil Donchin died Sept. 26 at 42. He is survived by his parents, Emanual and Rina. Malinow and Silverman

Jean Dreisen died Oct. 3 at 86. She is survived by her daughters, Janet and Betsy; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Hillside

Selma Ruth Cohn Erso died Sept. 28 at 80. She is survived by her husband, Henry; son, Harold Rice-Erso; daughter, Robin (Michael) McIntyre; five grandchildren; and sister, Marcia Spiegel. Mount Sinai

Edward Ezra Feinstein died Sept. 23 at 91. He is survived by his wife, Li Jiang; and nephew, Dr. Eben. Malinow and Silverman

Anna Fox died Sept. 30 at 93. She is survived by her daughters, Helen MacKinnon and Marilyn Cooke; and three grandchildren. Hillside

Minnie Garr died Sept. 27 at 83. She is survived by her sons, Norman and Rabbi Ronald (Minda); three grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; sisters, Fay Levy and Tamar (Dr. Gerald) Freeman; and brother, Nathan Frankel. Mount Sinai

Hanne Gilinsky died Oct. 1 at 73. She is survived by daughter, Margaret (Thomas) Noble; in-laws, Barbara and Jerry Werlin and Richard and Hetty Gilinsky; nieces; and nephews. Hillside

Elsie Goldstein died Sept. 29 at 95. She is survived by her sons, Maurice and Gerald (Naomi); and eight grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Harris Goldstein died Oct. 5 at 64. He is survived by his wife, Andrea; sons, Matt and Dave; two grandchildren; parents, Harold and Adeline; and brothers, Joel and Gary. Mount Sinai

Frances Shirley Kass died Oct. 3 at 86. She is survived by her husband, Reuben; daughters, Ilene Blok and Anne Bowman; and four grandchildren. Groman

Myer Keleman died Oct. 4 at 90. He is survived by his wife, Helen; daughter, Dorene (Steven) Shapiro; son, Steven (Laurie); four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Sylvia Keys died Sept. 27 at 94. She is survived by her sons, Stan (Dorothy), Paul (Carmen) and Harvey (Mickey); six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Alvin Klugman died Oct. 2 at 83. He is survived by his wife, Marjorie; daughter, Peggy (John) Cronin; grandsons, Paul and Bryan Cronin; and sister, Faye Hershman. Hillside

Sally Kraft died Sept. 28 at 95. She is survived by her daughter, Sheila (Dr. Elliot) Leifer; three grandchildren; and five great grandchildren. Groman

Sol Lederman died Oct. 4 at 84. He is survived by his daughters, Jill Fine, Patti Rose and Sue Minkoff; four grandchildren; and sister, Rose Silverstein. Groman

Bernard Lifson died Oct. 3 at 94. He is survived by his son, Allan; daughter, Barbara (Mendel) Kahan; and grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Dr. Irving Madoff died Oct. 2 at 96. He is survived by his wife, Frances; daughters, Cindy (Bertrand) Marcano and Jane; grandsons, Stewart and Scott Marcano; and great-granddaughter, Hannah. Hillside

Benjamin Gale Mannis died Sept. 25 at 94. He is survived by his daughter, Lynn Hill. Malinow and Silverman

Steven Jules Markman died Sept. 30 at 59. He is survived by his mother, Esther Kevenson; son, Joseph; sister, Barbara (Bert) Pronin; and brother, Larry. Malinow and Silverman

M. Stanley Muskat died Oct. 3 at 96. He is survived by his daughters, Joyce and Carol; and nephew, Harvey Kates. Malinow and Silverman

Joseph Nathenson died Oct. 4 at 80. He is survived by his wife, Ruth; son, Larry; daughter, Jill (Thomas) Bassett; one grandchild; and sister, Shirley (Ken) Bassett. Mount Sinai

Denise Rachel Oschin died Oct. 1 at 52. She is survived by her daughter, Ritta Sophia Papadopoulos; stepmother, Aggi; sister, Renie. Groman

Edythe Pauline Ouslander died Sept. 28 at 91. She is survived by her son, Arnold; and one grandchild. Groman

Constance Passamaneck died Oct. 5 at 69. She is survived by her husband, Steven; daughter, Julia (William) Jensen; stepchildren, Evi (Scott) Graham and Daniel (Kelly); and three grandchildren. Hillside

Howard Pearlman died Oct. 4. He is survived by his wife, Evelyn; son, Larry, (Janelle); daughter, Judy; three grandchildren; great-granddaughter, Georgia; and sister, Bernice; Hillside

Leslie Preston died Sept. 29 at 63. He is survived by his brother, Monty (Polly); and nephew, Darren. Mount Sinai

Maurice Rabin died Oct. 1 at 83. He is survived by his nieces, Wendy (John) Kelsey, and Maxine Blaurock; and nephew, Michael Pantel.

Walter Roth died Sept. 29 at 85. He is survived by his sons, Albert and Edward; and former wife, Henny. Sholom Chapels

Arthur Rothenberg died Oct. 2 at 86. He is survived by his wife, Maxine; sons, Richard, Howard and Phillip; daughter, JoAnn Mercer; six grandchildren; and three great- grandchildren. Hillside

Davis Sarkin died Oct. 3 at 80. He is survived by his sons, Allan (Lisa) and Ralph; daughter, Robin Haines; six grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Groman

Rabbi Richard Ira Schachet died Sept. 20 at 70. He is survived by his daughter, Tamara (Wally) Schachet-Briskin; stepchildren; and two grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Obituaries


Werner Anders died Sept. 27 at 91. He is survived by his wife, Lily; daughter, Rachel (Leo) Woss; son, Gideon (Leslie); five grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchildren.
 
Roberta “Bobbie” Bernstein died Sept. 25 at 67. She is survived by her husband, Hy; sons, Steve and Keith; daughter, Deanna; and four grandchildren. Chevra Kadisha
 
Shari Cohen died Sept. 25 at 78. She is survived by her husband, Harry; daughters, Barbara Racklin, Margie Baumbac and Debra (Stuart) Blum; and three grandchildren. Mount Sinai
 
Jonathan Comras died Aug. 8 at 44. He is survived by parents, Jackie and Richard; and brother, Lawrence. Mount Sinai
 
Selma Comsky died Aug. 24 at 79. She is survived by her daughters, Michelle Margolis, Jan and Andrea; sons-in-law, Mark Margolis and Jack Cousin; and two grandchildren.
 
Harry Drucker died Sept. 8 at 77. He is survived by his wife, Sylvia; and son, Barry. Sholom Chapels
 
Mae Falikoff died Sept. 20 at 95. She is survived by her son, Marvin. Sholom ChapelsJordon Feldman died Sept. 27 at 70. he is survived by his wife, Bette; son, Adam; and daughter, Abbie. Mount Sinai
 
Isaac Fields died Aug. 26 at 87. He is survived by his wife, Dora; son, Allan (Elyse); daughter, Pauline (Milton) Zablow; six grandchildren; and brothers Max (Betty) and David (Gladys).
 
Mildred Handelsman died Sept. 17 at 91. She is survived by her husband, David; and sons, Burton and William. Groman
 
Jeffrey Michael Harman died Sept. 22. at 48. He is survived by his wife, Debbie; son, Eric; parents Martha and Sam; brothers, Harvey and Steven; and friends. Beth Israel Cemetery
 
Alice Horowitz died Sept. 14 at 90. She is survived by her son, David (Miriam); daughter, Phyllis (Dr. David) Katzin; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Sholom Chapels
 
Ayouch Yechiel Ifrah died Sept. 18 at 85. He is survived by his sons, David, Albert, Gabriel, Raphael and Max; daughters, Jacqueline, Annette, Helen, Tersa and Judith; 14 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Chevra Kadisha
 
Herman Klein died Sept. 10 at 91. She is survived by her daughters, Jenny (David) Cohen and Rose Margolis; son, Larry; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Sholom Chapels
 
Semen Khanukayev died Sept. 20 at 87. He is survived by his wife, Olga; sons, Josef and Igor; daughter, Anna; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Chevra Kadisha
 
Aaron Phillip Moss died Sept. 19 at 89. He is survived by his son, Jack Crayne; daughter, Phyllis; and stepson, Richard Cohen. Groman
 
Herbert “Lou” Press died Sept. 25 at 83. He is survived by his wife, Ina; daughter, Susan Shulman; son, Evan (Isis); four grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; sister, Evelyn Lehman; and brother, Burt (Trueen). Mount Sinai
 
Martin Alden Rohrlich died Sept. 17at 87. He is survived by his daughters, Janice Lang, Linda Cohn and Andrea Cohen; and six grandchildren.
 
Alfred Ross died Sept. 12. He is survived by his brother, Max (Doris). Sholom Chapels
 
Martin Saben died Sept. 26 at 82. He is survived by his sons, Jack and Gary; and cousin, Glenda (Larry) Carver. Mount Sinai
 
Diana Ruth Siegel died Sept. 21 at 98. She is survived by her sons, Robert (Sally) and Allan (Melinda); daughter, Elaine (Harry) Smith; seven grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; and brother, Al Powell. Mount Sinai
 
Sarah Silverberg died Sept. 17 at 88. She is survived by her nephews, Marvin Kay, Howard Rudnick and Jeff Monka. Sholom Chapels
 
Bess Smith died Sept. 25 at 89. She is survived by her sons, Murray and Barry (Denise); three grandchildren; and brother, Max Muravnick. Mount Sinai
 
Judith Tiger died Sept. 26 at 74. She is survived by her husband, Siggy; sons, Michael and Peter (Lynn); daughters, Inez (Mark) Tiger-Lizer and Leone (Etai) Zion; son-in-law, Drummond; and six grandchildren. Mount Sinai
 

Obituaries


Gladys Bloom died Aug. 27 at 87. She is survived by her daughters, Penelope Rosenberg and Lois Tunick; six grandchildren; three stepgrandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. Groman
 

Obituaries


Leonore Arvidson died April 26 at 80. She is survived by her daughter, Enid; son, Dean; grandson, Ben; sisters, Bea (Max) Perlberg and Char Goldberg; and brother, Stan Charnofsky. Mount Sinai

HERMAN BRAGER died April 23 at 76. He is survived by his wife, Betty; son, Steven; daughter, Rhonda; one grandchild; and sister, Estelle Singer. Hillside

Rodman Rubin Cohen died April 27 at 82. He is survived by his wife, Rose; sons, Jeffrey (Judie), Paul (Kathy) and Mark (Maribel); daughter Joan (Steven) Soltz; 12 grandchildren; and brother, Herman (Terry). Mount Sinai

SONDRA SHAMES-COHEN died April 27 at 73. She is survived by her husband, Morton Cohen; children Mickey (Steven) Lewis and Brad (Julie) Shames; 11 grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter. Hillside

Nettie Condon died April 26 at 91. She is survived by her sons, John (Cyd) and Frank; and granddaughter, Chloe. Mount Sinai

SUSAN COOPER died April 29 at 62. She is survived by her husband, Steven; son, Todd (Alexandra); and three grandchildren. Hillside

Morris Farkas died April 26 at 93. He is survived by his son, Morris. Groman

Jerry Freeman died April 30. He is survived by his wife, Aviva; daughters, Leslie Aaronson and Nili Ovsiwitz; one grandchild; and sister, Judith Kahn. Groman

MAX GEFFNER died April 26 at 86. He is survived by his wife, Valerie; sons, Sandy (Ellen) and Bob (Ellen); daughters Nola (George) Geffner-Mihlsten ; stepson, Steve; and eight grandchildren. Sholom Chapels

Zena Gold died April 30 at 90. She is survived by her daughters, Judith (David) Rosenthal and Maxine (Lloyd) Kouri; grandchildren, Greg (Barbara) Rosenthal and Tina Kouri; and sister, Ina Gruman. Mount Sinai

Mae Goldberg died April 8 at 98. She is survived by her son, Maurice; daughter, Marcia Gomberg; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Bertha Goldstein died April 24 at 80. She is survived by her husband, Julian; son, Steve (Judy); daughter, Ellen (Stephen) Goldstein-Tersigni; three grandchildren; brother, Irving (Arlene) Shapiro. Mount Sinai

DOROTHY SARA HOFFS died April 22 at 94. She is survived by her sons, Dr. Josh (Tamar) and Dr. Malcolm (Ellen); six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. Hillside

JACK JOSEPH JACOBSON died April 26 at 93. He is survievd by his wife, Libbie; children, Annee Tara (Tom Rumpf) and Tom Jacobson; grandchildren Ethan Jacobson and Leah (Jake) Schug; and great-grandchild, Alexander Joaquin Schug. Hillside

Arnold Kaplan died April 28 at 63. He is survived by his wife, Sheila; children, Alison (Jan) Kelleter, Howard and Lorn; two grandchildren; and mother, Mildred. Mount Sinai

Charlene Karwoski died May 2 at 74. She is survived by her daughters, Marcy Brenner and Rose Arellanes; sons, Sanford (Lena) Brenner, Frank (Kim), Vince (Mary) and William Arellanes; 10 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and brother, Howard (Bea) Block. Mount Sinai

Morris Katz died April 24 at 92. He is survived by his sons, Martin and Carl; brother, Nathan; and sister, Gertrude Linder. Mount Sinai

Dr. Gregorio Kazenelson died April 24 at 71. He is survived by his wife, Barbara; and daughter, Debra (Jeff) Dean. Malinow and Silverman

Rose Kravitz died April 30 at 89. She is survived by her sons, Sheldon (Denise) and Herbert (Eleanor); and four grandchildren. Mount Sinai

MATTHEW CAMERON LEWIS died April 26 at 18. He is survived by his parents, Adena Berger and Robert; grandparents, Sheldon and Venita Berger; and sisters, Rachel, Lilly and Olivia. Hillside

EMANUEL LIGHT died April 24 at 90. He is survived by his wife, Celia; sons, Jeffrey (Francine), Donald (Jane) and Dennis; four grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters. Hillside

Carol Love died April 25 at 56. She is survived by her sons, Bellaamy Mitchell, and John Brink; daughter Maydee Mitchell; and three grandchildren. Groman

Evelyn Magid died April 29 at 92. She is survived by her daughter, Bonnie (Barrett) Bearson; son, Jerry; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

RICHARD NEAL NORTH died April 26 at 53. He is survived by his father, Milton; and cousin, Don Preston. Hillside

LISA BLOCH OLSHANSKY, died April 29. She is survived by her husband, Richard Olshansky; children, Amy Rose, Chaysen and Max; parents, Richard and Nancy Bloch; and brothers, Andrew and Jonathan Malinow and Silverman

Teresa Perchuk died May 1 at 88. She is survived by her daughters, Felica Lopez and Silvia; and two grandchildren. Mount Sinai

MAC RAFF died April 29 at 86. He is survived by his son, Mitch; and sister, Sally Springer. Sholom Chapels

Nat Regenstreif died May 1 at 89. He is survived by his wife, Vivian; sons, Ron (Roxann) and Allan (Adele); three grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and sisters, Irene (Martin) Travis and Marlene Semel.

Rebecca Rosen died April 29 at 91. She is survived by her son, Albert Rosen; daughter, Elissa Berzon; five grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Groman

Judy Rothstein died May 2 at 75. She is survived by her sons, Ron, Glen and Kenny; daughter, Gail Ream; two grandchildren; brother, Leonard Abraham. Groman

MARY ANN SACHERMAN died April 21 at 82. She is survived by her daughters, Lynne (Dennis) Fliegelman and Lynda (Michael) Rubenstein; grandchildren, Natalie and Alex; and sister, Sally Cole. Hillside

EDWARD SARROW died April 24 at 82. He is survived by his companion, Phyllis Ames; son, Ron; three grandchildren; brother, Arnie.

Marion Schneider died April 24 at 82. She is survived by her husband, Martin; children, Ronald (Terry), Avery (Barbara) and Wendy; granddaughter, Juliette; and brother, David (Gina) Tepper. Mount Sinai

ALAN SCHULTZ died April 21 at 61. He is survived by his wife, Harriet; sons, Randy (Jill) and Rob; mother, Bella; brother, Steven; sisters, Gail and Joy; and friend, Elaine Saller. Hillside

John Bruce Sills died May 1 at 62. He is survived by his wife, Patricia; mother, Edythe Fahringer; and brothers, Steven and Mickey. Groman

Henry Silver died April 27 at 94. He is survived by his nieces, Miriam (Asher) Harel and Jean Priver. Mount Sinai

Howard Sookman died April 30, at 80. He is survived by his wife, Shirley; daughters, Barbara (Cantor Edwin) Gerber and Sheryl; and four grandchildren. Mount Sinai

SHERRI LEE STONE died May 1 at 59. She is survived by her husband, Michael; children Aaron (Lisa) and Joshua; mother, Rebecca Orinstein; sisters Carol (Jon) Swinnerton and Harriet Orinstein; parents-in-law, Oscar and Shirley; brothers in-law, Bruce (Susan) and Hal (Lynda Stone); and eight nieces and nephews. Hillside

Adele Strauss died April 28 at 93. She is survived by sons, Dr. Ronald (Susie) and Stephen; granddaughter, Valerie; and niece, Helen Kurtz . Mount Sinai

Shirley Venger died April 27 at 81. She is survived by her daughter, Paula (Ed) Albert; and three grandchildren. Mount Sinai

RANDY LEE WEIL died April 25 at 52. She is survived by her mother, Ruth; sister, Sharon (John) Aaron; and friend, Rabbi Judith Halevy. Hillside

SPENCER JAY WILLENS died May 1 at 78. He is survived by his wife, Harriet; children Douglas, Donald, Michael, Damon and Stacey; six grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Hillside

Gazella Yaffe died April 24 at 89. She is survived by her son, Richard; daughter, Barbara Feinberg; and two grandchildren. Groman

Obituaries


Ruth Adler died April 8 at 85. She is survived by her daughter, Michelle (Gevik) Bachoian; son, Frank (Karen); five grandchildren; and sister, Bella Cohen. Mount Sinai

Elana Belinkoff died March 13 at 80. She is survived by her husband, Adar; daughters, Dalia (Ira), Alisa (Howard), Dena (Sol); seven grandchildren; and sister Rama Zamir. Hillside.

Betty Bledy died April 9 at 77. She is survived by her husband, Arthur; sons, Mark and Leslie; four grandchildren; and two great- grandchildren.

Blanche Bloom died April 11 at 87. She is survived by her son, Noel (Susan); daughter, Maggie; three grandchildren; brother, Hal (Pat) Alexander; and nephew, Rob (Lisa) Miller. Mount Sinai

Israel David Borenstein died April 8, at 84. He is survived by his sons, Larry (Laurie) and Jeff (Judy); daughter, Blanche (Mark) Kraveitz; six grandchildren; and sister, Anna Gutwillic. Mount Sinai

Harriett Cherney died April 3 at 87. She is survived by her brother, Victor Bochacki; and sisters, Annette Bafo and Majorie Adamski. Malinow and Silverman

Allan Davis died April 13 at 77. He is survived by his wife, Beryl; sons, Gary (Victoria) and Paul (Ginnie); five grandchildren; and brother, Cyril Davis. Mount Sinai

Betty Ducat died April 7 at 92. She is survived by her daughter, Shirley Laderman. Malinow and Silverman

Shirley Mae Epps died April 4 at 81. She is survived by her daughter, Lorry (Mate) Greenblatt; son, Jack (Cynthia); and four grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Emanuel Finkel died April 7 at 94. He is survived by his son, Ted; and daughter, Irene Landsberg. Malinow and Silverman

Rose Fisher died April 4 at 94. She is survived by her sons, Arnold and Robert (Ofra); daughter, Verna Erez; six grandchildren; and sister, Ida Chisvian. Mount Sinai

LARRY GOLD died April 4 at 52. He is survived by his wife, Cindy; children Andrew, Olivia, Ian and Madeline; mother, Beverly; siblings, Donna (Bruce) Rothstein, David Ross and Lisa; sister-in-law, Penny (Jerome) Madden; and three nephews. Hillside

Mae Goldberg died April 8 at 98. She is survived by her son, Maurice (Arline); daughter, Marcia (Jerome) Gomberg; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Florence Goldstein died April 3 at 91. She is survived by her daughter, Elsie (Jack) Hunn. Malinow and Silverman

Henry Goldstein died April 4 at 94. He is survived by his daughter, Beverly Cohen. Malinow and Silverman

Jack Greenberg died April 14 at 98. He is survived by his son, Anthony. Malinow and Silverman

Clifford Harris died April 7 at 58. He is survived by his wife, Ellen; sons, Kevin (Joanna) and Scott (Sierra); daughter Meggan (Adam Miller); and three grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Florence Kauffman died April 11 at 88. She is survived by her husband, Richmond; sons, Andrew and Richard; four grandchildren; and brother, George Hausman. Malinow and Silverman

Rosaline Klein died April 5 at 92. She is survived by her daughters, Roberta Thompson and Francine Denmeade; six grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren. Groman

Anne Ladon died April 3 at 90. She is survived by her daughter, Carol Alpert; and granddaughter, Julie Alpert. Mount Sinai

Michelle Ann Leve died April 2 at 34. She is survived by her mother, Deborah. Malinow and Silverman

Marian Le Vine died April 6 at 86. She is survived by her daughter, Marsha Krieger; son, Jerry (Carole); six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Harold Milton Lewis died April 11 at 95. He is survived by his wife, Harriet; son, Steven; daughters, Lynn Alschuler and Babette Walter; sister, Jean Remar; 14 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Sam Lereya died April 14 at 100. He is survived by his daughters, Rachel Aflalo and Zaava. Malinow and Silverman

Max Lipshultz died April 9, at 84. He is survived by his children, Diane (Tony) and Michael; two grandchildren; brother, Fred; and sisters, Sara Agata and Eva. Mount Sinai

Mindla Majdat died April 3 at 94. She is survived by her stepson, Percy (Natalie) Cooper. Mount Sinai

Louis Marder died April 9 at 84. She is survived by her son, Sheldon; and granddaughter, Jennifer. Mount Sinai

Monroe Miller died April 7 at 90. He is survived by his sons, Kenny (Martha) and Jeffrey (Rich); and daughter, Marsha. Mount Sinai

Linda Barbara Moffa died April 6 at 58. She is survived by her husband, Philip; daughters, Sharon (Dr. Andrew) Horodner and Dr. Allison; and one grandson. Malinow and Silverman

Yetta Newman died April 9 at 88. She is survived by her sons, Dale (Carolee) and Jeffrey (Lila); six grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; sister, Helen (Sam) Weingard; and brother, Marvin (May) Berman. Mount Sinai

Dorothy Nissenson died April 10 at 92. She is survived by her son, Bernie (Marcia) Labowitz; grandchildren, Paul Labowitz and Shannon (Michael) Coleman; great- grandchildren, Kyle and Rachel Coleman; and cousin, Fern. Mount Sinai

Yoram Pourtavosi died April 10 at 48. He is survived by his wife, Shadi; children, Cobby, Elliot and Kevin; mother, Nosrat; sisters, Mehri (Hooshang) Davdodpour and Minou (Yoel) Eshagian; brothers, Yahiah (Dina Asheghian) and Joseph (Sohila); and cousin, Abbey Tabariai. Mount Sinai

Molly Rael died April 6 at 90. She is survived by her husband, Irving; son, Michael; and sisters, Eileen Phinney and Frieda Uretz. Mount Sinai

Beatrice Weisstein Ridgley died April 4 at 91. She is survived by her husband, Paul; son, Larry; daughter, Renee’ (Linda) Perez; three grandchildren; and sister, Thelma Sundick. Malinow and Silverman

Gloria Rudolph died April 4 at 78. She is survived by her son, Randy. Malinow and Silverman

Judith Sandler died April 12 at 87. She is survived by her son, Barry (Naomi); and two grandsons. Malinow and Silverman

Stuart Seidner died April 12 at 57. He is survived by his wife, Roxane; son, Daniel; daughter, Erin; mother, Ruth; brother, Gary (Luciano); and sister, Sandra (Robert) Rosenstein. Mount Sinai

Esther Shapiro died April 4 at 89. She is survived by her daughter, Susan; son, Alan (Pearl); four grandchildren; and four great- grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Betty Ann Silver died April 3 at 88. She is survived by her daughter, Rosalind. Malinow and Silverman

Nancy Sollish died April 10 at 98. She is survived by her son, Melvin; daughter, Pauline; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Philip Solomon died April 3 at 88. He is survived by his wife, Claire; son, Barry (Linda); four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Mount Sinai

Leon Harold Specktor died April 5 at 83. He is survived by his daughter, Denyse; and brother, Dr. Marshall (Marlene) Spector. Malinow and Silverman

Martin Stiller died April 6 at 67. He is survived by his wife, Barbara; sons, Neil (Kimberly) and Gary (Vicki); three grandsons, David, Jonathan and Wesley; and sisters, Elaine (John) Bush, Beverly Setser and Leslie Steiner. Mount Sinai

David Tamarin died April 5 at 87. He is survived by his daughters, Adreen DuBow, Judy and Faith; three grandsons; two great-grandchildren; sister, Anna (Glen) Popperwell; and brother, Carl. Mount Sinai

Randolph David Thornton died April 6 at 50. He is survived by his wife, Kim; daughters, Sean and Michelle; mother, Elizabeth; sister, Cindy; and brother, Michael. Malinow and Silverman

Irving Willner died April 5 at 82. He is survived by his wife, Ruth; son, Paul (Lynn Clancy); daughter, Julia (Scott) Parker; granddaughter, Erin Alyssa; and sisters, Shirley (Sol) Matzkin and Phyllis (Jonas) Herskovitz. Mount Sinai

Margaret Zelson died April 7 at 83. She is survived by her daughter, Carol Miller. Malinow and Silverman

 

First Person – A Coming Out (of Egypt) Story


Sixteen years ago this month, I planned to take the Passover message of liberation to heart. I was going to come out of the closet to my sister and my parents and, in doing so, free myself from the bondage of keeping this huge and personal part of me from them. I was going to verbalize the secret I had feared revealing to them for more than 15 years since I first was able to put words to the feelings.

I grew up in a small, quaint New Jersey suburb of New York, a commuter town ideal for raising children. Since having moved to Los Angeles in 1987, at the age of 25, I generally visited my parents and sister back in New Jersey an average of once a year. That once a year was usually Passover time, since I had the time off from my work as a day school educator (and would enjoy the additional bonus of being able to lock up my home for the holiday and sell my chametz without having to go through the cleaning and other laborious pre-holiday preparations and rituals).

Perhaps my plan to come out during Passover was just practical, since that was when I typically returned home; or perhaps it was a flair for the dramatic or symbolic, since I had come to think of the emotional bondage of keeping my secret as a modern-day equivalent to the physical slavery of my ancestors. Either way, it was during Passover of 1990 that I had planned to come out to my parents and tell them I’m gay. I returned to my childhood home that year armed with several articles and a book titled, “Now That You Know: What Every Parent Should Know About Homosexuality,” all designed to prove how normal it was to be gay.

I had come out a year earlier (also at Passover) to Rob, one of my best friends from college on whom I had had a crush. We got in his car, and I asked him to pull over on the way to wherever it was we were going because I had something really important and serious to tell him. He pulled into a parking lot (my elementary school parking lot) and turned off the engine. I loosened my seatbelt, turned to face him, took a deep breath and said, “I’m gay.”

To which he responded, somewhat anticlimactically, “Is that all?”

I don’t know if I was more relieved or disappointed, but there was no rejection. My first coming out was successful.

It took an entire year after that to muster the courage to tell my sister — who responded, “I still love you, and of course I won’t tell anyone.” To this I said that I wasn’t telling her so that she would now have to keep the secret. Coming out to my sister was planned to precede the coming out to my parents by several days. It was my warmup, my practice. But anticipating these two experiences, as anxiety-filled as they were, was nothing compared to the immeasurable angst I felt as I practiced and replayed over and over how I would reveal my secret to my parents.

The day I was going to tell them, I went to New York City to visit friends. I took the commuter train back to our town and felt the rumbling in my stomach as I anticipated freeing myself from my personal Egypt. The train sped closer and closer to home. With each station the train pulled into I could feel the rumbling in my stomach increase, and as I walked to my parents’ home (my childhood home) my stomach was on the verge of exploding. I tried to eat normally, but my appetite was limited. The meal, the conversation were overshadowed as I got closer to the point of expelling my truth, all the while wondering whether I would actually be able to follow through on my plan.

After dinner, I told my parents that I had something I wanted to say. They sat down at the table, dishes already cleared. With the gasses in my stomach doing triple axels, I mustered the courage — more courage than I had ever needed to do anything to that point in my life — and I said the words that liberated me from the self-imposed oppression that I had endured since realizing years earlier (beginning in third grade, if not even before) that I felt different than what I thought others felt: “I have something that’s really hard to say … I’m gay.”

Silence. Unbearable silence. To fill the silence I gave them the book and articles that I had brought. Perhaps I had brought them as much to help my parents through this new world as to prove to them that I was serious and that this was thought out. My father’s first words were: I’m shocked but I’m not shocked. (I had never really dated girls and though not effeminate, I fit some of the stereotypes.) My mother, tears filling her eyes, expressed her fears and her anxiety for me — I wouldn’t have a happy life, I would be alone — I did my best to assuage the concerns, but I had, after all, been working toward this moment for years and for them it was all new. And, frankly, I hadn’t thought through the post-liberation experience. The idea of telling my parents that I’m gay was so overwhelming that I hadn’t thought past anything but their initial reactions.

My father left to go to a meeting. My mother went to the sink to do the dishes. There was quiet again, but this quiet was the aftermath, the quiet that occurs when the truth and all of its realities, some becoming known and others not yet thought, become real, and we are trying to make sense of the implications. I felt a confusing mix of feelings – relief, anxiety, disappointment – and freedom from the mitzrayim, the narrow places, in which I had been stuck all those years.

On reflection, I wonder whether, thousands of years ago, the Israelites, too, didn’t experience the disappointment that the liberation wasn’t quite as easy and complete as expected. I suppose the fantasy was that I would come out of the closet and would be told, “Is that all?”

But my parents had more invested than my college friend. Their picture of my future, and by extension their future, would take longer to sort through, reimagine and come to terms with. The beginning of my liberation was now, in some ways, their new wilderness. It would be up to them whether they would turn it into a self-imposed bondage.

Due — in no small part — to my coming out, I have come to believe that our primary task in life is to know ourselves, accept ourselves and to love ourselves and to hope that those who love us will do the same. Each year we are to imagine ourselves as slaves in Egypt and to re-experience the bitterness of the oppression symbolically through retelling the story and through the sensory experiences of the seder. We are to think about the way we are enslaved and oppressed today, how we oppress ourselves and how we can help end the oppression of others. How we can take ourselves out from our personal house of bondage. How we can free ourselves and how we can come out.

Jeff Bernhardt is an educator, Jewish professional and writer living in Los Angeles.

Obituaries


George Allen Smith,
Philanthropist and Founder of George Smith Partners, Inc.,
Dies at 70

George Allen Smith, a leader in Southern California’s real estate finance industry, died Nov. 3 at 70. A graduate of the Harvard Business School, Smith, whose career in the industry spanned four decades, founded George Smith Partners Real Estate, a commercial mortgage brokerage firm, in 1992.

Smith and his wife, Pam, championed many institutions, including The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Museum of Contemporary Art. His chief philanthropic endeavor was the founding of the Ataxia Telangiectasia Research Foundation (A-TMRF), an organization devoted to funding research into a rare neurological disease affecting his daughter, Rebecca. Since its inception in 1984, the A-TMRF granted more than $10 million in research funding worldwide, including the endowment of the Rebecca Smith Chair in A-T Research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

“George approached every challenge with a level of confidence that was inspiring and contagious,” said Dr. Richard Gatti, who holds the Rebecca Smith Distinguished Professorship at UCLA.

To raise funds for the A-TMRF, Smith initiated the annual George Smith Partners Real Estate Luncheon, an event which now attracts more than 1,500 industry professionals. At this year’s event, Smith was presented with an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University.

Smith is survived by his wife, Pam; sons, James and Matthew; daughters, Jill Oaks and Rebecca; grandchildren, Samantha and Hannah; and sister, Eleanor (Gerald) Sorkin.

Donations can be made to the A-TMRF c/o Haskell and Davis, 16000 Ventura Blvd., Suite 806, Encino, CA 91436. — Nancy Sokoler Steiner, Contributing Writer

Samuel Baradaran died Oct. 12 at 65. He is survived by his daughter, Shaleen; and cousin, Michael Amin. Groman

ROUHOLLAH BARKHORDARIAN died Oct. 12 at 93. He is survived by his wife, Rose; six children; 16 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. Hillside

Annette Berman died Sept. 17 at 86. She is survived by her daughters, Jackie (Andy) Stern and Lynn; granddaughters, Traci Tannler and Molly (David) Schlussel; great-grandchildren, Zackary Tannler and Vivienne Schlussel; and brother, Sy (Lennet) Ogulnick. Mount Sinai

RAYMOND BLACKMAN died Oct. 11 at 81. He is survived by his brother, Al. Sholom Chapels.

HYMAN BARNETT BOOKMAN died Sept. 28 at 95. He is survived by his son, Jack; two grandchildren; and brother, Albert. Hillside

HARRY BRODSKY died Oct. 12 at 95. He is survived by his daughter, Iris (Mickey) Weiss; three grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Hillside

MELINDA EVELYN BRUN died Sept. 30 at 63. She is survived by her husband, William; daughter, Chandra; and nephew, Erik Laykin. Hillside

RAYE REENA CARLIN died Oct. 8 at 87. She is survived by her son, Martin (Caroline); daughter, Maxine; grandchildren, Laura and Mitchell; and great-grandson, Daniel. Hillside

SARAH GARFINKEL died Sept. 28 at 94. She is survived by her daughter, Sandy (Ron) Shenkman; and granddaughter, Stephanie Shenkman. Hillside

MARIAN LAURANS GETZOFF died Sept. 29 at 88. She is survived by sons, Peter and Stephen; daughter, Barbara Huff; daughter-in-law, Kay; seven grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; sister, Eleanor Feller; and brother, Raymond Laurans. Hillside

NANCY LYNN GOFF died Oct. 10 at 50. She is survived by her mother, Cecile; and sister, Julie (Dr. Ben) Simon. Sholom Chapels.

JANICE HAMLIN died Oct. 2 at 83. She is survived by her husband, Morris; sons, Richard (Delia) and Robert; and four grandchildren. Hillside

HYMIE HERSOWITZ died Oct. 11 at 87. He is survived by his wife, Eva; and son, Selwyn. Sholom Chapels.

Estrea Rozanes Kapuya-Berro died Oct. 12 at 93. She is survived by her son, Eliezer (Venus) Kapuya; and three grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Ralph Kaye died Oct. 11 at 86. He is survived by his wife, Helen; sons, Irv and Marc (Renée); daughter, Debbie; five grandchildren; and brothers, Eugene and Norman. Sholom Chapels.

BOB LEVY, JR. died Oct. 8 at 95. He is survived by his son, Bob. Hillside

CLARA LEWIN died Sept. 27 at 90. She is survived by her nephew, Gabor Szekeres. Hillside

Joyce Loraine Lynch died Oct. 10 at 67. She is survived by her daughters, Catherine and Michele. Malinow and Silverman

Leon Markus died Oct. 13 at 89. He is survived by his wife, Charlotte; sons, Jeffrey and Michael; daughter, Judith Knobel; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Groman

Karl Meyer died Oct. 11 at 81. He is survived by his children, Steven (Randi) and Michael (Heather). Mount Sinai

WILLIAM NEWMAN died Sept. 29 at 79. He is suvived by his wife, Sheila; son, Ian (Karen); daughters, Dana (Tim) and Mara (Paul); and six grandchildren. Hillside

Shoshana Noily died Oct. 13 at 97. She is sirvived by her sons, Josh and Samuel; daughters-in-law; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

MARVIN DAVID RATNER died Sept. 29 at 84. He is survived by his wife, Mildred; sons, Rabbi Robert (Susan) and Andrew (Kathi); brother, Stanley; eight grandchildren; and great-grandson, Yael. Hillside

BEATRICE PEARL RIEMER died Oct. 3 at 86. She is survived by her children, Rick, Ken and Terry; and four grandchildren. Hillside

Sylvia Ringelheim died Oct. 14 at 79. She is survived by her daughters, Sherrill Lewis and Arlene Parker; and one grandchild. Groman

MARLENE ROBINSON died Oct. 10 at 73. She is survived by her daughter, Marlene (Richard) Arnold. Sholom Chapels.

Morris Romerstein died Oct. 11 at 92. He is survived by his daughter, Anne (Charles) Grob; son, Samuel; and one grandchild. Malinow and Silverman

DOROTHY ROSENTHAL died Oct. 10 at 83. She is survived by her daughter, Michele (Sam); two granddaughters; brother, Bernie (Marcia); three nieces; and eight great-nieces and great-nephews.

Bernard Saffe died Oct. 13 at 81. He is survived by his son, Gary; daughters, Sari Garger and Rickie Louis; and three grandchildren. Groman

LORAINE ROSETTA SCHWARTZ died Oct. 11 at 86. She is survived by her daughter, Carole Jablon; and granddaughters, Tess and Jordon Jablon. Hillside

MONETT SCHWARTZ died Oct. 3 at 83. She is survived by her son, Paul (Sheila); daughter, Susan (Steven) Bromberg; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Hillside

Martha Sego died Oct. 13 at 96. She is survived by her son, Peter; and one grandchild. Groman

Art Shaimes died Oct. 12 at 68. He is survived by his wife, Meredith; daughters, Cathy (Robert) Manzi and Lori (Rich) Hammer; son, Martin (Jeanette); and eight grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Elias Solz died Oct. 13 at 81. He is survived by his wife, Harriet; daughter, Heidi (Roger) Kerr; son, William (Susan) Solz; and four grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Esther Mazo Sosner died Oct. 14 at 97. She is survived by her sons, Bernard (Phyllis), Harold (Gail) and Howard (Elaine); seven grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and sister, Beatrice Cord. Mount Sinai

FREYDA PENNER SPATZ died Sept. 30 at 87. She is survived by her daughers, Julie DaVanzo (Frank), Barbara and Andrea (Bob Wunderlich); and four grandchildren. Hillside

Harry Weiner died Oct. 11 at 89. He is survived by his sons, Ken and Norm; daughter, Charlene Garcia; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Groman

CHARLOTTE MARIE COFFMAN WEISS died Sept. 28 at 88. She is survived by her sons sons, Rabbi Ken (Sue) and Dr. Mark (Marilyn); eight grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and sister, Mildred Foreman. Hillside

MORRIS WINKLER died Oct. 8 at 76. He is survived by his wife, Mitzi; and son, Jaime. Hillside

 

Writer Stepping Out With ‘In Her Shoes’


When Jennifer Weiner attends the premiere of “In Her Shoes” — based on her 2002 chick-lit best seller — she’ll wear a brand new hairdo.

This past summer, the 35-year-old and her younger sister, Molly, an actress, both had identical geometric bobs. But since sis is one of her dates for the premiere, Weiner grew her brown hair shoulder length, added blond highlights and loose waves that she says are very “in” for fall.

“I decided we couldn’t both have the same hair on the red carpet,” she adds with a laugh.

The way sisters compete and relate is the subject of Weiner’s novel and the movie, directed by Curtis Hanson (“8 Mile”) and adapted into a screenplay by Susannah Grant (“Erin Brockovich”). Like the book, the droll but heartfelt film revolves around Jewish siblings who have nothing in common except size 8 1/2 feet and a wicked stepmother. The fictional Maggie (Cameron Diaz), a Size 0 babe, is an irresponsible party girl with dyslexia. Rose (Toni Collette), a frumpy Size 14, is a successful attorney with low self-esteem about her looks and her love life.

Rose collects shoes to make herself feel better; Maggie covets and pilfers the boots and high heels.

It is only when the sisters reconnect with their long-lost grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) that they learn to make peace with each other — and the footwear issue.

The shoes become a metaphor for all the ways the sisters are jealous of each other — “for wanting to inhabit someone else’s skin and get what they get out of life,” Weiner says.

The author is barefoot in her Philadelphia bedroom after her recent haircut, as she insists that the fictional siblings are not versions of herself and her own sister. But their relationship did spark questions that inspired the story. Weiner’s sister didn’t steal her shoes, but she took her clothes, mostly her plus-sized sweatshirts when the 1980s film, “Flashdance,” made oversized sweats fashionable.

“I was the responsible one, saying ‘Mom says we have to be home by 11,’ and she was the one saying, ‘Let’s take the car keys. Mom will never know,'” the writer recalls. “She was always cute, [petite] and bubbly, while I was more, ‘Jenny, get your nose out of that book.'”

As she wrote “In Her Shoes,” she wanted to work through an obvious, but puzzling, conundrum: How can people who grew up in the same house wind up radically different individuals?

The blond, blue-eyed Cameron Diaz looks less like either Weiner sister and more like the gorgeous WASPs both siblings grew up with in Simsbury, Conn. The dark-haired Weiner “felt like an outsider in so many ways,” she told the Journal in 2002. She says she was “funny-looking,” brace-faced and plump. On her youth trip to Israel, where there were four other Jennifers, she was labeled “the fat one.”

Weiner spent the next decade dieting and seeing nutritionists — until she had an epiphany in the late 1990s.

“It had been 10 solid years of trying to get somewhere my body didn’t want to go,” she says. “And I really just got to the point where I thought, ‘How much more nonsense am I going to put myself through, and how much time am I going to waste? And looking at the world and seeing the genuine suffering and injustice, how much more of my life do I want to devote to looking like Jennifer Anniston?’ And I said, ‘I am through with this, and I’m going to work with what I have and try to be happy and take some of this energy and put it someplace else.'”

The energy went into writing her semiautobiographical debut novel, “Good in Bed,” whose troubled, zaftig heroine winds up living happily ever after without shedding a pound. That’s more or less what happened to Weiner, who is now married to a menschy attorney, with a 2-year-old daughter and a stellar writing career to boot.

Her wickedly witty but flawed heroines have made her the biggest chick-lit success story since Helen Fielding burst through with “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” according to Entertainment Weekly. The Jerusalem Post called Weiner the Jewish girl’s answer to Fielding.

Weiner says she enjoys creating Jewish, plus-sized heroines, partly because she is writing what she knows, and partly because such characters are often invisible in the popular culture. Heavy women, especially, are ignored or played for laughs.

“[Take] Kirstie Alley in ‘Fat Actress,’ cutting Lane Bryant labels out of her clothes and sewing Prada labels in instead,” Weiner says by way of example. “Or Sarah Rue in [ABC’s] ‘Less Than Perfect.’ Like, excuse me, Size 10 is less than perfect? The average size for women in America is 12. So there’s a marginalization that goes on, and you don’t ever see that anyone [overweight] can be beautiful and happy.”

Considering Hollywood’s weight phobia, Weiner felt victorious when actress Toni Collette (“The Sixth Sense”) agreed to gain 25 pounds for the film. Collette has admitted she was reluctant to put on the weight.

“But I love my character and I think the extra pounds are pertinent to the way Rose sees herself,” Collette said at a press conference. “She overlooks herself, and I think most people walking past her would probably do the same. But as an audience member, you get to know her and you see her getting to know herself…. Her name is Rose and you really watch her blossom.”

The movie also features amusing, if occasionally cliched, Jewish characters based on residents of the Florida retirement community where Weiner’s grandmother lives. There is a joyous Jewish wedding and a grotesquely caricatured Jewish American Princess, the sisters’ wicked stepmother. Weiner — who finds the character “recognizable” — loves the scene in which the “stepmonster” gets her just desserts. (She discovers that her biological daughter has joined Jews for Jesus.)

If the fictional sisters enjoy their Cinderella-like happy ending, so does Weiner. Her books have sold millions of copies worldwide; Hollywood is snatching up the movie rights, and her latest novel, “Goodnight Nobody” (Atria Books) just hit bookshelves.

And then there’s the “Shoes” premiere, where the author will sashay down the red carpet not in glass slippers, but in strappy Nine West silver stilettos.

Perhaps she’s hoping her sister will wear something else.

The film opens Friday.

 

Happy Birthday, Me!


In a few weeks I’ll turn 33 and, sadly, I realize I’m long past being anything “for my age.” I’m no longer cute for my age, talented for my age, a good reader for my age. All qualifications and special considerations have long passed. There’s nothing I can get away with now because, “After all, your honor, he’s only 33.”

I should know better by now. I’m mature, experienced, a grown-up.

You’d think that being so mature and grown up, I’d have a healthy attitude toward my birthday and the presents I may receive. You obviously don’t know me well.

So let’s talk about presents.

Turning 33 reminds me that I’m no closer to being married than I was when I was turning 32 (or 22 — or 12, for that matter). In lieu of working on myself and what I’m lacking personally, I’m focusing instead on what I’m lacking materially. It’s a great system.

My father asked me for a list of what I’d like from my family for my birthday this year. Though this isn’t as fun as letting them figure something out, I’ve learned my lesson from past birthdays: Gift-giving is not their forte.

One year, my father gave me a box of 500 very nice, custom-printed, raised-lettered business cards, printed on heavy ivory stock with my name, address and phone number. It would have been a lovely, lovely gift — had I not been 7 years old at the time. I don’t know what he thought I would do with them. (“Yes, please announce me to the queen. And fetch me a snifter of your finest chocolate milk.”) I did give some of them out to kids at school, which actually proved very helpful. Now the children knew where to come to beat me up before school started, in case they wanted to get an early jump on their day.

Most of the remaining cards went into plastic bins or fish bowls, trying to win a free lunch, dance lesson or Hawaiian vacation from a local merchant. None was ever randomly drawn. It wasn’t a total loss though; in fact the cards proved quite prophetic. I still have no job title or work address. Thanks, dad.

My sister wasn’t much better. One year, in a grab bag of other little gifts, she gave me a very nicely wrapped condom.

I’m going to give you, Dear Reader, a moment to let that sink in: Sister … condom. Greek tragedies have been written about less. If Freud were alive today, I believe he would say, “Eewwww!”

It’s customary, of course, to write a thank-you note when receiving such a personal gift, but telling my sister, “Thanks, I’ll think of you when I’m using it,” didn’t seem quite appropriate.

My therapy is ongoing and intensive, thanks for asking.

Of course, there’s a substantial likelihood that, as with most things, I’m overreacting.

I’m not a heartless idiot. I realize that nobody has to give me a gift. I get it: Material things don’t matter. I should be grateful that anybody thinks enough of me to buy me anything at all. It’s a blessing to have a family, to have such tiny problems, and besides, there are starving children in Africa who would love to have a condom or business cards.

Though misguided in their execution, I do try to remember that there had to be a loving intention behind these gifts. They weren’t thoughtless. Maybe my sister wanted me to be protected and safe and to know that she cares about my health and recognizes that I’m not a kid anymore. Maybe my father wanted to connect with me, see a glimpse of the junior businessman who might one day take over the company that he took over from his father. Those business cards, though impractical on one level, were the most practical on another: wallet-sized evidence that I am my father’s son, that I have an identity, his last name and a home.

And my grandmother, whom I love dearly, must have had good intentions when she gave me a Valentine’s gift one year. Blissfully unaware of what people who are not severely medicated actually wear in public, she gave me a T-shirt she had had custom-made at the mall. Decorated with red felt hearts ironed on all over, and in the middle, big felt block letters spelled, “I Love Keith!” Even if I had any self-love, I don’t think I’d announce it like this.

She tried to convince me that people would see it and think, “There’s a boy whose grandmother loves him.” I took a random survey of imaginary people and the overwhelming response actually was, “There’s a boy who lost a bet. Let’s go to the address on this business card and beat him up.”

J. Keith van Straaten is a writer and performer who currently hosts “What’s My Line? — Live on Stage” every Wednesday in Los Angeles. For more information, visit

Obituaries


PERLA ABITTAN died Aug. 3 at 74. She is survived by her husband, Emile; son, Arie; daughter, Rica (Yizhaz) Elbaz; and three grandchildren. Chevra Kadisha

Max Barbach died Aug. 1 at 98. He is survived by his sons, Ron (Sharlene) Barback and Harry (Eleanor); daughter, Sandra; grandson, Robert (Nancy) Barback; granddaughter, Vicki Pierce; and four great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Robert Jared Berman died Aug. 5 at 36. He is survived by his mother, Sonia; brother, Steve (Gabi); uncle, Dr. Maurice Rapport; and nephews, Daniel and Jimmy. Mount Sinai

Herman Brotman died Aug. 2 at 92. He is survived by his wife, Shirley; son, Stuart; daughter, Eve Zanni; one grandchild; brother, Benjamin; and sister, Sarah Pizzi. Groman

Alice Cohen died Aug. 5 at 72. She is survived by her husband, Edward; sons, Bruce (Regina) and Robert (Vicki Corbin); daughter, Jacki (Jimi) Freeman; four grandchildren; brother, Herbert (Ruth) Copelan; sister, Jeanette Greenwald; and sister-in-law, Shirley.

Stephen Coopersmith died Aug. 4 at 63 He is survived by his wife, Madelyne. Mount Sinai

BARRY CORCHNOY died Aug. 3 at 60. He is survived by his father, Morris; and sisters, Marcia Fazekas and Barbara Styles. Groman

Perry Dean died Aug. 6 at 58. He is survived by his wife, Marsha; daughter, Alison; brother, Stuart (Debra) Schrift; three nieces; one nephew; and cousins, Diane Lichenstein, Victoria Glassman and Shelley Winters. Mount Sinai

Samuel Dubell died Aug. 4 at 86. He is survived by his sister, Rita Rosenfeld; nephew, Malcolm Rosenfeld-Danare; niece, Lynne (Brad) Hoffman; and grandnephews, Brandon and Matthew. Mount Sinai

KHATOUN EBRAMI died Aug. 4 at 93. She is survived by her son, Jamshid; daughters, Mahin and Samin; two grandchildren. Chevra Kadisha

PRINCESS SHIRMA GERBER died Aug. 3 at 77. She is survived by her sons, Gary (Kerry) and Zalman (Miriam); daughters, Denise (Stuart Perlman), Beverly (Daniel Wells), Simcha (Ronnie Fine), Tobi and Chava; 31 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Hillside

Maria Gittelson died July 31 at 91. Hillside

Ruth Goldstein died Aug. 2 at 85. She is survived by her son, Michael; daughters, Andrea Robinson and Nanci Edwards; seven grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; sister, Annette Conely; and brothers, Arnold and Gerome Graboys. Hillside

Morris Greitzer died Aug. 1 at 96. He is survived by his son, Steven (Eve); daughter, Harriet (Mel) Belasco; six grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and brother, Simon (Rose). Hillside

Leon Independence Gubin died Aug. 3 at 98. He is survived by his wife, Louise; daughter, Virginia (Harry) Roney and William (Nancy); four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Hillside

Lillian Harris died Aug. 1. She is survived by her son, Ron (Carol); daughter, Elaine (Robert) Steaffens; seven grandchildren; and four great- grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Dr. Durwood Hersh died Aug. 3 at 87. He is survived by his son, Alan (Janice); daughter, Ruthann (Ken) Bachrach; five grandchildren; and sister, Rosalyn Katz. Hillside

Edith Howard died July 31 at 85. She is survived by her husband, Milton; sister, Sylvia Tussett; brother-in-law, Harold; sister-in-law, Geri; and three nieces. Hillside

Seymour Kagan died Aug. 3 at 81. He is survived by his wife, Elaine; son, Matthew; daughter, Nicole Davis; and sister, Anita Travers. Malinow and Silverman

Jessie Kohn died Aug. 2 at 94. She is survived by her sons, Barry (Will Harrison) and Mel (Wendy); grandchildren, Elisa (Alex) Taub and Gary Kohn; great-grandchildren, Lindsey and Jonathan Taub; brother, Hillis (Miriam) Rittenberg; sisters, Mimi Harris, Tybie Flapan and Gertrude Cousens; and many relatives. Mount Sinai

BARBARA LAYCOOK died Aug. 5 at 53. She is survived by her husband, Thomas; sons, Nathaniel and David. Hillside

Gregoriy Levkov died Aug. 4 at 57. He is survived by his wife,Valentina; sons, Alex and Maxim; daughter, Alla; and brothers, Simon (Paulina) and Yakov (Alla). Mount Sinai

Irving Levy died Aug. 5 at 95. He is survived by his sons, Earl (Linda) and Burton (Jan); stepson, Si Tenenberg; and grandson, Daniel. Mount Sinai

JOSEPH Albert LICHTMAN SR. died Aug. 4 at 86. He is survived by his wife, Caroline; son, Joe Jr. (Bess); daughters, Nancy (Scott) Treggett and Gail (Ed) Margulies; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Sholom Chapels

Charles Mandell died Aug. 2 at 92. He is survived by his wife, Myrtle; daughter, Mimi (Robert) Borden; and four grandchildren. Hillside

Clara Zupnik Mantelman died July 31 at 79. She is survived by her nephew, Dr. Herman Zupnik; niece, Ruth Zupnick; great-nieces, Jennifer and Laua; and great-great-nephew, Shayne Andor. Groman

Bernard Jerome Marcus died Aug. 2 at 76. He is survived by his daughters, Julie (Mark) Shimko and Marilyn (Harvey) Fisher; five grandchildren; and sister, Mildred Stone. Mount Sinai

Harry Markowicz died Aug. 5 at 89. He is survived by his wife, Clara; brother-in-law, Meyer Rofe; and niece, Anna (Larry) Rofe. Mount Sinai

Irma Milman died Aug. 3 at 79. She is survived by her husband, David; sons, Mark (Margo), and Craig (April); four grandchildren; and brother, Donald (Joan) Hodes. Mount Sinai

Harriet Munoz died Aug. 4 at 74. She is survived by her husband, William; sister, Millie Kellner; brother, Irving (Florence) Kroten; and niece, Judith (Craig) Pettigrew. Mount Sinai

Max Musnicki died Aug. 3 at 85. He is survived by his wife, Rita. Mount Sinai

Melba Pearl Nedler died Aug. 6 at 72. She is survived by her husband, Jerry; children, Beth (Chris) Barber, Barrie (Mathew Miller) and Lee; three grandchildren; and sister, Gloria Cohen. Mount Sinai

Mary Nemer died Aug. 3 at 98. She is survived by her daughter, Beverly Karp; 11 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren. Groman

Alfred Oberman died Aug. 3 at 81 He is survived by his brother, Philip (Fran); sister, Lilian (Sam) Morris; nieces; nephews; great nieces; and great-nephews. Mount Sinai

ISAAK PODOLSKIY died Aug. 4 at 90. He is survived by his wife, Esfir; and two grandchildren. Groman

FRANCES HILDA RASKIND died Aug. 4 at 96. She is survived by her sons, Harvey and Marshall; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Hillside

BETTY KOLKO ROSENFELD died Aug. 1 at 82. She is survived by her son, Sherman. Chevra Kadisha

EVELYN ROTHFELD died Aug. 2 at 88. She is survived by her sister, Renee Nash; and niece, Nancy Deyorle. Groman

Betty Behr Ryback died Aug. 4 at 83. She is survived by her husband, Rabbi Martin; daughters, Anne (Steven) Schmidt and Elizabeth; son, Charles; granddaughters, Samantha and Cassandra; and brother, Walter (Barbara) Behr. Mount Sinai

Lawrence Salk died Aug. 4 at 68. He is survived by his wife, Judith; daughter, Jessica (Ron) Tammarillo; sons, Eric (Liz) and Daniel; mother, Maxine Koolish; and sister, Judy Watson. Mount Sinai

James Singer Sayre died Aug. 2 at 82. He is survived by his wife, Elinor; sons, Steve (Carol) Horvitz and Darron (Marilyn); daughter, Margie Moulton; five grandchildren; and brother, Timmy (Harriet) Singer. Mount Sinai

ALFRED SCHWARTZ died Aug. 4 at 74. He is survived by his wife, Letitia; sons, Ted (Margaret) and Sam; and two grandchildren. Chevra Kadisha

Deborah Stern died Aug. 3 at 103. She is survived by her daughter, Jean Charney; and granddaughter, Chris Marks. Hillside

Charles Wingis died Aug. 2 at 73. He is survived by sons, Steve (Nancy) and Mike; daughter, Jean; grandson, Brett Bolderman; and brother, Joseph (Peggy) Boda. Mount Sinai

RabBi Alfred Wolf died Aug. 1 at 88. He is survived by his wife, Miriam; sons, David and Dan; and four grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Obituaries


Ronald Abelson died July 23 at 75. He is survived by his wife, Shirley; daughter, Kerry Zymelman; and two grandchildren. Sholom Chapels .

George Alexander died July 20 at 74. He is survived by his sons, Gerald, Robert and Lance; seven grandchildren; and sister, Frances. Groman

Richard Alexander died July 21 at 68. He is survived by his wife, Ann; and daughters, Debra, Karen and Kim. Malinow and Silverman

Marvin Bank died July 21 at 86. He is survived by his daughter, Gina. Malinow and Silverman

Burton Eugene Becker died July 23 at 88. He is survived by his wife, Barbara. Hillside

Allen Berliner died July 24 at 65. He is survived by his sons, Isaac and Kevin; brothers, Myron, Irving and Henry; sisters, Alice Mink and Rosalie Blackman; and companion, Carmen Moreno. Malinow and Silverman

Roy Bokhoor died July 20 at 24. He is survived by his mother, Zoya; and uncle, Maurice Neri. Groman

Mary Chaiken died July 20 at 92. She is survived by her daughters, Elaine (Jocko) and Joann Golden; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Arthur Chase died July 21 at 67. He is survived by his ex-wife, Charlene Haughey; and cousin, Leon Raskin. Groman

Irving Cohen died July 22 at 89. He is survived by his sisters, Terry Freedmond and Anne; seven nieces; two nephews; and many great-nieces and great-nephews. Mount Sinai

Irene Miller Curcio died July 24 at 67. She is survived by husband, George; son, Rob Miller; stepdaughters, Lisa Murphy and Linda (Albert) Shigemura; stepson, Vincent (Toni); and six grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Robert Gerschner died July 22 at 87. He is survived by his sister-in-law, Celeste (Hal) Erdley. Sholom Chapels .

Lola Goffman died July 21 at 95. She is survived by her sons, Sam (Darilyn) and Hirsch (Debbie); and four grandchildren. Hillside

Frieda Handschu died July 7 at 93. She is survived by her son, Dr. Sylvain (Linda) Silberstein; six grandchildren; and 21 great-grandchildren. Sholom Chapels .

Donald Carl Hoffman died Aug. 6 at 65. He is survived by his wife, Sheila; son, Lee; daughter, Eileen Gannaway; and one grandchild. Groman

Samuel Hoffman died July 24 at 80. He is survived by his sons, Stuart and Rabbi David; and sister, Ida Sachs. Groman

Dorothy Esther Jonesi died July 23 at 88. She is survived by her daughter, Gloria and Rochelle Cohen; three grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; great-great-grandchild, Brianna; and sister, Frances Rouse. Hillside

Roselle Lynn Kahn died July 20 at 88. She is survived by her niece, Patricia Robitaille; great-niece, Charlene Valli; cousin, George Gluck; and friend, Margit Herman. Chevra Kadisha

Esther Karnes died July 21 at 94. She is survived by her granddaughter, Vicki; sister, Dorothy Mallin; and niece, Tobey Silverstein. Mount Sinai

Belle Kosasky died July 22 at 88. She is survived by her son, Melvin; daughter, Doreen Rosen; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Groman

Judith Carol Levi died July 23 at 61. She is survived by her son, Darryl. Mount Sinai

Bessie Mandelblatt died July 21 at 89. She is survived by her son, Alvin; daughter, Diane Schwarz; and three grandchildren. Groman

Rachel Leah Marcus died July 23 at 90. She is survived by her grandson, Jan (Sandy) Lankin; three great-grandsons; sister, Marilyn (Nat) LeTraunik; nieces; nephews; and friends. Mount Sinai

Shoshana Mehrabanian died July 22 at 102. She is survived by her sons, Mansour and Yahya; grandson, Samuel. Chevra Kadisha

Salim Morad died Sept. 25 at 82. He is survived by his wife, Hanna; children, Shoshana Cohen, Rena (Bill) Martin, Ovadya, Adela and Osharat; seven grandchildren; sisters, Simcha (Shalom) Shemis and Haviva Zion; and brother, Nissim (Dalia) Morad. Mount Sinai

Faye Fortess Mortel died July 21 at 88. She is survived by her sons, Karl (Tihla) and Victor (Denyce). Chevra Kadisha

Rose Edna Newmark died July 24 at 93. She is survived by her daughter, Carole Wood; one grandchild; one great-grandchild; and sister, Jane Wynhoff. Hillside

Lana Esther Pimbley died July 21 at 62. She is survived by her daughter, Jennifer Rubenstein; sister, Linda Rubenstein; and brother, Bernard Rue. Hillside

Harriet Punim died July 22 at 78. She is survived by her husband, Norman; son, Jeffrey; daughter, Patrice Levin; four grandchildren; sister, Frances Miller; and brother, Henry Safer. Hillside

David Rose died July 23 at 81. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth. Groman

Sybil Scheffler died July 24 at 89. She is survived by her sons, David (Dina), Steven (Rose) and Stan (Dora); granddaughters, Irene and Brittney; great-grandchildren, Bridgette and Tyler; and sister, Sally Smith. Mount Sinai

Lily Abdullah Shad died July 23 at 57. She is survived by her husband, Jamil; and sons, Eddie and Charles. Chevra Kadisha

Phyllis Shano died July 22 at 61. She is survived by her husband, Jack; son, Jason; daughter, Hallie; and brother, Steve (Karen). Malinow and Silverman

Irving Spiegel died July 21 at 93. He is survived by his wife, Miriam; sons, Henry and Philip (Jana); daughter, Deborah (Jeffery) Sweitzer; stepson, David; stepdaughter, Susan; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Hillside

Dorothy Stein died July 21 at 79. She is survived by her son, Eric. Malinow and Silverman

Stephanie Lynn Susman died July 20 at 45. She is survived by her parents, Arnold and Norma; and sister, Valerie Goldfine. Hillside

David Tourqeman died July 22 at 83. He is survived by his wife, Marcella; and sons, Raymond and Jaime. Chevra Kadisha

Cele Troyan died July 20 at 88. She is survived by her brother, Jeff Lewis; and niece, Andrea (Brad) Polak. Mount Sinai

Lucille Victor died July 23 at 84. She is survived by her son, Michael Shulem; daughter, Lyn Greene; 11 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and relatives, Barton Shulem, Deborah Davis and Harold Ross. Groman

Harold Wasserman died July 20 at 74. He is survived by his wife, Heidi; son, Mark (Debra); daughter, Beth (Chuck) Samuel; five grandchildren; and brother, Leonard (Marge). Malinow and Silverman

Herman Weintraub died July 21 at 92. He is survived by his sons, Larry (Barbara) and Ronald (Marilyn); daughter, Renee; two grandchildren; and sister, Ruth Eskow. Mount Sinai

Libbie Winograd died July 23 at 91. She is survived by her son, Cary; daughter, Deborah; two grandchildren; and niece, Beth Cohen. Groman

Irene Zenker died July 21 at 95. She is survived by her son, Arnold (Barbara); and daughter, Carol. Malinow and Silverman

Obituaries following our October 8th issue, have been archived and can be found in our archives section.

A Manual for the Auntie-to-Be


It seemed that lots of people — including total strangers —
had plenty of advice to offer my sister and my brother-in-law before the birth
of their first child, an event the entire extended family anticipated for late
summer 2003. And it wasn’t just a matter of kindly (if ultimately incorrect)
projections about the baby’s gender or rueful warnings about all those
sleepless nights to come.

“I heard that you’re not supposed to eat tuna fish when
you’re pregnant,” one woman in a New York City deli remarked, loudly, when my
sister sank her teeth into her once-a-week tuna treat during her seventh month.

The willingness of so many people to “share” scarcely
surprised me. Like the suggestions that streamed in for the bridal couple
between the engagement and the wedding, child-related counsel appeared to come
with the territory of a pregnancy. And if the pointers weren’t enough for my
sister and brother-in-law, they could count on the insights and instructions
buried within the books that quickly crowded out the suddenly antiquated
wedding prep manuals on their bookshelves. Not to mention the countless classes
they soon registered for, on everything from how to bathe a newborn to
negotiating the relationship changes “when two become three.”

I confess that before my sister’s wedding, I didn’t sense
too much that was personally life changing for me. And since I’d previously
served as a bridesmaid, it wasn’t very difficult to perform that job again.
Bridesmaiding seems a contract position of sorts, which ends as the band packs
up and the bridal couple drives away in their limousine.

But I quickly found preparing for the birth of a first niece
or nephew to be different, especially as a still-single and childless future
aunt. For one thing, while there is plenty of advice, these days, even for
bridesmaids — and perhaps ironically enough, my sister has co-founded a popular
Web site on that topic (www.bridesmaidaid.com) — there is little written to
provide counsel for the more significant lifelong position of aunt-to-be. Nevertheless
I was surprised by the events and changes — some subtle, some less so — that I
experienced in the months between sister’s announcement of her pregnancy and
the baby’s birth. Others might be just as surprised by analogous “symptoms,”
such as:

Feeling the Baby Kick — Sure, I have lots of friends who are
moms, and I’ve watched the growth of their families very attentively, but no
matter how long I’ve known them or how many secrets we’ve shared, it’s never
quite seemed appropriate to ask, “Can I touch your stomach?” It wasn’t until my
own sister’s pregnancy that I could press my palm against a mother-to-be’s bare
skin — and wait to feel a baby kicking her from within.

Consulting on the Baby’s Name — As a writer I have the
opportunity to name characters all the time, and I’d owned a book titled,
“6,000 Names For Your Baby,” expressly for that purpose long before my sister
started thinking about beginning a family. But one of the biggest surprises —
and privileges — of my sister’s pregnancy was my role as “consultant” and
confidant in the name selection process (and there was an extra bonus — being
allowed to remain in the room for one final confidential discussion after the
baby arrived but before her name was announced).

Expanding My Consumer Savvy and Lexicon — Babies “R” Us.
buybuy BABY. I didn’t know about any of this before. Frankly, I didn’t care.
And I certainly never saved those Pottery Barn Kids catalogs that for some
reason arrived regularly in my mailbox. Now they are stacked with pages marked
and items circled. Like the first-time grandparents on both sides, I get to
spoil this baby.

Learning Infant and Child CPR — OK. Some details of
obstetrical procedures I probably didn’t really need to hear about. There are
reasons I chose not to go to medical school. Twenty years ago, as part of the
middle school “health” curriculum, I had received certification in first aid
and CPR. But thanks to my sister’s insistence that anyone who planned to be
entrusted with solo time with her child needed to acquire some training in
emergency response, I contacted the American Heart Association. I enrolled in a
Heartsaver CPR for Infants and Children Course. I studied the manual and
prepared for my class — two weeks before the parents-to-be.

I learned a lot in that class that surprised me. I hadn’t
realized, for example, that, this year, one in every five children would be
injured significantly enough to require emergency treatment. I hadn’t realized
how many preventive measures could be taken to avoid crises situations. And I
certainly didn’t know about other aspects in the “chain of survival.” I’d
already understood the best way to place an infant in her crib (“back to
sleep”) and known something about car seat safety, but I appreciated my
instructors’ additional tips on how to handle 911 calls and other strategies
(that of course I hoped I’d never have to use). I was proud to report that I’d
only missed one question on my written test — a record my sister matched; my
brother-in-law, a member of Phi Beta Kappa and tops in his law school class,
scored a perfect 100. (You can imagine the pressure on the grandparents.)

But the biggest surprise was how much closer my sister and I
— who certainly had our share of sibling struggles over the years — became
throughout her pregnancy. From speaking on the phone only occasionally, we
found ourselves speaking multiple times each week. We planned a trip to buybuy
BABY (with grandma-to-be) that would include Auntie Erika, visiting
specifically for the occasion, as well. Everyone in the family referred to the
baby, whose gender remained a mystery until delivery, by the nickname I gave
it: “Kicky.” Via e-mail I viewed every single sonogram and smiled over
photographs of the baby’s newly assembled bassinet. And when my sister was
admitted to the hospital (for the real thing, after having stalled preterm
labor for several weeks) I only hoped I’d reach New York in time.

That, I’m not sure anyone expected. Â

Erika Dreifus is a Massachusetts-based writer and teacher. Her fiction and essays have appeared in such publications as the Boston Globe and Lilith. Â

Ask Wendy


Absent Father Wants to See
Daughters

Dear Wendy,

My father left my mother when my sister was 8 and I was 5. His visits became increasingly infrequent until, about 20 years ago, we stopped hearing from him altogether. Recently he got in touch with my sister, told her he was dying of cancer and asked her to come visit. Where my sister sees closure, I see the opening of something I sealed off years ago. But she is afraid to go alone and wants me to go with her. She needs the moral support, and I don’t want to let her down.

Knotted Up Over Family Ties

Dear Knotted,

Your sister, if she decides to go, is embarking on a journey, not a simple day-trip. She may view this reunion with your father as a necessary excursion, but it sounds like you view it as heading off on something of a safari. Unarmed. I agree that your sister should not make her trek alone. But there must be plenty of other travelers — with nothing at stake — who would be happy to go along for the ride. A word of caution: Resolving one’s feelings is very different from “sealing them off.” Make sure you know the difference before you decide against seeing your father. This may be your last chance.

Gram’s Caretaker Thinks Judaism Is
Evil

Dear Wendy,

My ailing grandmother lives in a Jewish nursing home in Florida. She has a sweet and devoted caretaker who attends to her needs six days a week. I am very thankful that we have found her. There is one small problem: The caretaker is a devout Christian. She has informed me, on more than one occasion, that she prays every day that Jesus will open our hearts. The last time we spoke, she informed me that Judaism is an evil religion. I worry that she will take advantage of my grandmother’s confused state to convert her to Christianity. My mother and my aunt — my grandmother’s daughters — are amused by my account. But I am angry and very bothered. Any advice?

Worried About Grandma

Dear Worried,

If your grandmother is anything like mine was, it is more likely she will convert her caretaker to Judaism before she welcomes Jesus into her heart — no matter how vulnerable or confused she may be. Your grandmother’s caretaker may be the wrong religion for your taste, but I’d rather have a devout individual who feels she is doing God’s work than a hired hand who cares only about making a living. Or worse, someone whose caring and kindness you question as soon as you leave the room. My grandmother had a driver in her later years when her eyesight had failed. He would drink and make anti-Semitic remarks; when he was sober there was no sign of his prejudice.

Caring for the elderly is not a job many people seek. If you are not prepared to care for your grandmother yourself, be grateful that she has a companion who is above reproach in every way that matters. If it makes you feel better, I suggest you specify that when reading aloud to your grandmother, she select portions found in the Torah and not the Christian Bible.

Mixed Relationship Has Woman
Confused

Dear Wendy,

My mother is Jewish, my father is not. Growing up, I never knew what I was. I recently went on a Birthright Israel trip and felt deeply connected for the first time to my Jewish heritage. Here is my problem: I have been dating a non-Jewish man for over a year. If I ended the relationship I would regret it for the rest of my life. But I am constantly weighing my relationship with him against my feelings for the land of Israel and my desire to return there. I could not ask someone to convert to satisfy my needs. But if we have children, they would grow up as I did — confused, with nieces and nephews of other religions.

Struggling With Interfaith Issues

Dear Struggling,

There need be no such thing as a confused child. There are only ambivalent or ineffective parents who fail to transmit a clear identity to their progeny.

Yours is not the typical tale of crossed lovers. You cannot fault yourself for having discovered late in life what being a Jew means to you, nor for having fallen in love with a non-Jew before you did. Your dilemma is black and white but the solution is not. This is a matter of the heart. The worst thing you can do to yourself is to impose a deadline by which time you must choose either your religion or your man. The decision will come to you, and when it does, it will be clear. Your boyfriend will also have something to say about how this turns out. Just keep walking and see where you end up.

A Portion of Parshat Ki Tisa


Oh boy, do the Israelites slip up this week. They have just received the Ten Commandments, have heard God speak to them and have vowed to do all that God commands them, even if they do not fully understand why they must. Forty days later, they’re dancing around a calf made of melted golden earrings and calling it a god! What happened?

Have you ever had a serious talk with your parents and vowed never to misbehave again? You will never pinch your sister again. You will never miss another homework assignment. The promise you make is a true one, made from the bottom of your heart. Two weeks later, you just can’t take it anymore, and, whoops!

Keeping your promises, especially the important ones, is always an uphill battle. But don’t give up. Wipe the slate clean, and start again.

The Lamb is Sure to Go


Mallory Lewis grew up with a very famous sister, but she laughs if you ask about sibling rivalry. "She slept in a shoebox in the closet, I had my own room, it was fine by me."

But this is no horror story of an evil stepsister. Mallory Lewis’ sister is Lamb Chop, the adorable, perpetually 6-year-old puppet of children’s entertainer Shari Lewis. Beloved by millions since their 1957 debut on "The Captain Kangaroo Show," Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop would go on to entertain generations of kids with their PBS series and videos. Mallory Lewis began writing her mom’s newspaper column for kids at the age of 12, and by the early ’90s, she was head writer and producer for mom’s series.

Her work made it all the more natural for Mallory Lewis, now 34, to fill her mother’s sock after Shari Lewis’ untimely death from uterine cancer in 1998.

Though many, not least of all Mallory Lewis, feared that the lovable puppet would die along with her creator, the plucky puppet took only a year’s hiatus before piping up again, now through her big sis. "When [my mom] died, Lamb Chop just spoke. I don’t practice Lamb Chop. She works through me."

So while some world-weary grownups might see a celebrity daughter and a puppet, don’t mention the puppet thing to Lamb Chop. "She is real as far as she is concerned," Mallory Lewis says, "Lamb Chop thinks of me as her supporting act."

"Jewish communities around the country were always extremely supportive of my mother," says the lifetime Hadassah member. "She always said it made her feel like there was family in the audience."

Mallory Lewis and Lamb Chop kick off the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles’ Sundays are for Stories series on Sunday, Sept. 9, 3 p.m.-4 p.m. 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. For reservations or more information, call (323) 761-8648.

Childhood’s Sweet Sharp Imprint


It is summer, a long time ago, and I am lying on a terrace overlooking an ancient garden full of rosebushes and fruit trees. The days have been so hot, the asphalt on the sidewalk melts under my feet if I dare step out of the house. At night, the temperature drops. My sisters and I take the hose to the yard and stand there as the day’s heat rises out of the brick floor in a cloud of white steam. My mother spreads our bed on the terrace, and we crawl into it, hours before we can actually fall asleep. We thrash about in the cool sheets that smell of dust, summer and lavender bleach; listen to the music that drifts up from our grandmother’s radio downstairs; eat fresh mulberries we have picked from the tree in our own yard.

Our mother, 16 years old when she had her first child, has already lived a lifetime by 20. She is so young that she can play with us all day without losing her patience, so old she knows a thousand tales from a thousand lives already spent.

"Tell us a story," I ask, and she does.

"There is a girl," she says, "so fair, boys follow her home from school just to get a glimpse of her on the way, so kind, she cries at the sight of poor children begging on the streets of Tehran. Her mother has to buy her shoes every week because she keeps giving them away to kids who come to school barefoot. Once, she gives her uniform to a girl who doesn’t have one and walks home herself in her undershirt.

"Who is this girl?" I ask.

"My sister," she says.

"What happened to her?"

"She died of typhoid fever. Her spirit became a white butterfly and came back to visit our house every year."

The summers in Tehran are long and slow and smeared with boredom. I play cowboys and Indians in the yard with my sisters. My mother teaches me to cook rice, to embroider white handkerchiefs. My teachers have given me homework for all three months of vacation: "Copy the text and the drawings of entire books, word for word, including title and copyright pages. It’s good for your penmanship," they say. "It’s even better for your parents’ peace of mind. "

Sometimes my parents take us to the seashore in the North. We get up in the dark, four in the morning, so we can be there by sunrise. My sisters and I haven’t slept all night from excitement. We drive out of the city and into the mountains beyond. We cross passes so narrow, one false move would land the car at the bottom of a valley. We go through emerald jungles, past crystal waterfalls, across golden rice fields. On the other side, we can smell the sea.

"Tell us a story," we ask my mother in the car.

"There is a woman," she says, "so alone, she lives in a single room in the basement of a house in a town no one visits. She’s not old, but she’s beaten, not mute, but she won’t talk. She sits in her room all day and embroiders white handkerchiefs, signing her name and a blue butterfly in the corner. She has embroidered so many handkerchiefs, her room is overrun by them, stacked floor to ceiling, wall to wall. In her youth she had been so beautiful, her father used to hide her for fear of avid suitors, so cherished, her mother braided her hair into a dozen strands, then tied each braid with a golden coin. But she fell in love with a man who wasn’t a Jew, and she ran away with him, and when he became old and died, she could not go home to her own people anymore.

"What are the handkerchiefs for?" I ask.

"To dry her tears," she says, "over her sorrow for leaving her home."

In the fall, my mother sends us to school wrapped in coats and shawls and too many sweaters.

"Eat your lunch and keep your sweater on," she says every morning. "Pay attention in class and study hard. You have to go to college, get a job, have a career. A woman is nothing if she doesn’t have a job. Most of all, though, remember not to take your sweater off."

Years later, in America, my son will call her "the sweater police."

"Why does Giti always make me wear sweaters?" he asks, and I find that the answer is on the tip of my tongue, embedded in my consciousness, ready to pour out.

All winter, we walk through snow piled knee-high on the streets to get to school. At home, we do homework till the late hours of the night, watch "Days of Our Lives" on television once a week, eat salami sandwiches on white bread with pickles. My father’s relatives visit every week, sometimes every day. A few of them live with us year-long; a few stay for months at a time. An uncle leaves for Canada with $700 in his pockets and will become one of the richest men in the world. Another uncle sits by a brazier day and night and smokes something I am told is tobacco. My older sister listens to Barry White albums and declares she is going to live in Europe, or America, or anywhere people make that kind of music. My younger sister plays with Barbie dolls and speaks French like a native. I linger around the house, watching my mother and the people she interacts with, listening to their conversations, recording their emotions.

"I am going to send you to Europe to study," my mother declares. "You’d better get good grades and go to a good college. A woman needs higher education, independence, freedom."

I am 13 years old. I must have gotten good grades because I’m about to leave for Europe. My mother buys me a suitcase full of new clothes. She gives me a bracelet made of gold, my name carved on the plate. The day before I am to leave, her own grandmother, the famous Peacock, comes to say goodbye. She’s 80 years old by her own account, 110 by others’. She walks around the streets of Tehran dressed in layers of pink and red and yellow chiffon, her head covered with a scarf, her hair dyed with henna and tied in braids. She gives advice whether you asked for it or not. She tells my mother that birth control is a sin — especially if you are preventing the birth of a boy. She says antibiotics kill people. She says divorce is madness: "A husband," she says, "is like a crown of jewels. With it, a woman is a queen. Without it, she’s nothing but a woman."

She should know, I think. She divorced her own husband a thousand years ago, refused to go back, made a life for herself selling jewels to women with husbands.

In our dining room that day, she puts her hands in her pockets and scoops out fistfuls of color.

"Look here," she says, letting a string of jewels — diamonds and rubies and sapphires the color of the night — roll off her hands and onto the table. "You can pick what you like."

Through the years of school in Europe and later in the United States, I carry these stories, the voices of the people who spoke them, the mystery that surrounded them, as if they were an arm’s-reach away. In America, I hear different versions of the same truths. I discover facts that my mother had censored in her long-ago tales, I come to conclusions that she will neither deny nor confirm. I find humor, tragedy, drama. I even learn what the great-uncle really smoked in that pipe.

When my stories are published, my mother goes to every one of my readings and brings along her entire family. She reads all the reviews, checks the best-seller lists every week, buys copies of the book at every store in town. She gives the books to her friends, her hairdresser, her kosher butcher, the Israeli Minister of Defense. She brings them to me to autograph before she gives them away. "Write something good," she says. "Make it personal."

I am signing books by the dozen, wondering how to get personal with the butcher, what the Israeli Defense Minister will think of my tales of women who cry into tear-jars and men who balance gold coins at the tips of their male organs.

"Who’s buying all these books?" a reporter asks me when the sales figures show up.

"My mother and my sisters," I say, and the woman laughs, thinking it must be a joke.

But then the dust settles, and the excitement wears off, and my mother actually begins to read this book she has a thousand copies of. She calls me daily to tell me what I got wrong, what I have neglected to mention, what I should have left out. She asks other people what they thought of the book. Everyone has an opinion, especially those who have not read it and do not intend to. They, in fact, are most convinced of what I should and should not have put in these stories, and my mother records their thoughts and repeats them to me loyally.

As if to help her along, my friends confront me and say they never knew what kinds of thoughts circled in my mind. Strangers come up to me at parties and complain that they cried reading a passage, that they were pregnant when they read the book, that crying is bad for pregnant women. American audiences come to my readings and ask me specific questions about individual Iranian neighbors and business partners — as if being Iranian has given me a window into the mind of each and every one of my countrymen, as if we are all the same — predictable and uniform as they have imagined us to be.

I should be writing by consensus, I think. I should take a poll before I start my next book.

This is what I want to say to my readers, what I have tried to conferee in the books: that we are all one and the same — Iranians and Americans and everyone in between; that with a bit of luck, perhaps a bit of skill, I can tell a tale, however personal, which will resonate with readers as foreign to me and my culture as they want to be. That it will resonate with them and remind them of their own lives and bring us, neighbors and strangers alike, together.

It’s spring, just before Mother’s Day, and my mother has called.

"Sign one more book for the rabbi at my temple," she says. "Write something good. Make it personal. I’m coming over to pick it up."

I hang up the phone and watch my children, dressed down to their T-shirts, scramble around the house, looking for their sweaters.

Personal Shopper


I had to buy a present for my sister recently. Shopping for women, if you don’t happen to actually be a woman yourself, is a nightmare.

I’ve noticed that when men go shopping for clothes, there is a sense of purposefulness about it. We’re going to the store to buy something, some specific thing in response to a specific need. A shirt. I need a shirt. We march in, try something on. If it fits, we buy it and march back out. No squealing, no cooing, no fanfare. We take care of our needs. There is a sense of accomplishment. We live from shirt to shirt.

When women go shopping, it’s closer to a jazz dance than a march. They go into a shop with only the vaguest idea of what they want or — Dare I even bring this word into the discussion? — need. Let me tell you, these women are amazing. They are bred to shop from the time they are little girls. They need special dresses for special occasions. They think about what they’re wearing. They are actually trying to look good when they get dressed. Men are simply trying to not be naked when they go outside. We want to be protected from the elements. That’s good enough for us. "Shirt. Warm. Good."

Women don’t need most of the things they buy. How do you explain that you need a pair of black shoes when you already have 50 pairs of black shoes at home? I understand this now that 10 women explained it to me. None of those shoes will do. None of them are right. Those are bad, bad shoes. There is a pair of shoes out there that is absolutely perfect for this outfit, this evening, this destination, and she is going to find it. Somewhere, over the rainbow, perhaps, there is a Manolo Blahnik mule that is calling her name.

I love women’s shops. They’re so civilized; the salespeople so welcoming. It seems to the outsider that they’re inviting you in to relax, sit down, have something to drink. Women’s clothes don’t look like much of anything when they’re hanging on a rack. All the curves are missing; they need to have real live women inside them to make any sense to us. I wonder how women know what looks good on them? The answer: Intuition. The closest a man gets to intuition is bringing his wife, girlfriend or mother with him when he goes shopping.

Sometimes, women go shopping and don’t buy anything. Do you know what that’s about? They’re doing reconnaissance missions, preseason warm-ups. A woman window-shopping is like a batter in the on-deck circle taking practice swings.

How a woman ever chooses a purse is beyond me. I took my girlfriend Kathy to Gucci for her birthday. Some bags were too big, others too small to hold all her crap. She didn’t like the color of this one, the strap of another, the clasp of a third. When she asked my opinion and I told her that I liked the tan one, she looked at me as if I had just passed gas. In Gucci, no less! My utter lack of female intuition was glaringly obvious.

Forty minutes later, she finally chose something that looked roughly like a leopard print-covered human liver with a strap that fit her like a shoulder holster — all this for a scant $650. I was exhausted. Women may have 60 percent of the muscle mass of men, but they have twice the shopping stamina.

In the end, my sister told me that she wanted the faux-crocodile patterned purse in celadon, which is a color somewhere in the sage-mint-celery area, and goes with beige, white and black. "Tell me it doesn’t!" she challenged. I did not dare. Celadon is the new gray. Brown is the new black. Pink is the new red. No wonder I’m so confused.

Women are so free with compliments that buying a good purse can be a confirmation of one’s self-worth. If a woman tells another woman, "I love your bag, is it new?" It means: "You’re so smart, and I can tell by looking at you that you’re a good person. I want to be your best friend in the whole world. You’re going to heaven."

I’m convinced that men have more or less been running the world because we don’t have to choose between heels and sandals. If men had to accessorize, it would throw the order of the universe into chaos. A man thinks: "I’m wearing a belt. It’s either black or brown. It’s either thin or thick. It holds my pants up." Add one more variable to that stew, and anarchy would reign. If men had to buy pantyhose … I shudder to think.

Sooner or later we all have to cross that Rubicon and go shopping for the women in our lives. At the very least it says: I’m sorry about something and I’m trying to buy my way out of trouble. At best it says: I am so thoughtful, and you are one lucky girl to have me. My girlfriend Kathy broke up with me three weeks after our Rodeo Drive shopping spree. She left with the purse and no regrets, explaining that shopping is like sex, but it lasts longer. "Men come and go," she said wistfully, "but Gucci is forever."

Sibling Rivalry


I have three sisters, two older and one younger. My youngest sister, Debbie, was born when I was 8 years old. In the months leading up to her birth, I remember clearly the anxiety I felt over the possibility that it might turn out to be a boy and I might end up with a brother.

I suppose most 8-year-old boys would be thrilled at the possibility of having a younger brother to play with, boss around and teach the important ways of boyhood. So I must not be like most young boys. For months I had been telling my parents that if my mother gave birth to another boy, I was moving out and leaving the family! I was definitely not up for any competition in the boy department of my family — sorry, that job was already taken.

So, when the fateful day arrived on Oct. 9, 1957, I recall the anxiety and anticipation with which I greeted the arrival of my yet-to-be-known sibling.

I was sitting in class when a call came in asking that I be sent down to the principal’s office. I knew immediately it must have something to do with the impending birth of my sibling, so I raced down to the office, where I found my father waiting for me and my sister Candy, who was in another class at the same school. When, with a big smile, our dad informed us that we had a new baby sister, I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to welcome Debbie into the family.

But as the years went by, reality set in, and I became convinced every time my parents let Debbie do something that they would never have allowed me to do at the same age, that it must mean they loved her more — and I was jealous.

I even recall teaming up with an older sister to bring our “grievances” to the attention of our parents so we could enlighten them as to how unfair they were being and how unequally we were being treated. And I remember how deep the feelings could be.

So when I read this week’s Torah portion reminding us about the intense sibling rivalry between Jacob and Esau, and how fearful Jacob was of meeting up with his brother once again, knowing how he had abused and mistreated him, I thought back with great sadness on my own misplaced childhood jealousies and insecurities.

The fact is that too often parents do love their children differently, showing preference for one over the other and letting them know in a hundred different ways that no matter what they do, they will never really measure up. I see it in my work as a rabbi all the time, and every time I do it breaks my heart, knowing how fragile children’s egos really are.

In Vayishlach, we catch a glimpse of something remarkable, something redemptive in the human soul. When Jacob finally meets up with Esau bringing along his childhood fears and vulnerabilities, “Esau ran to greet him. He embraced him and, falling on his neck, he kissed him; and they wept” (Genesis 33:4). And Jacob, startled and awed by the open love of his brother, sweeping away decades of hurt and fear, replied, “To see your face is like seeing the face of God” (Genesis 33:10).

Would that we could all be as generous of spirit as Esau. Perhaps our real challenge from the Torah this week is to embrace the spiritual gifts of both brothers — from Esau to learn generosity of spirit, and from Jacob to look into the eyes of everyone we meet and have the vision to see the face of God.

Where the Heart Is


They say you can never go home again.

Well, you can. Only you might find yourself staying at a Travelodge, driving a rented Ford Contour and staking out your childhood home like some noir private eye just trying to catch a glimpse of the Johnny-come-latelys that are now living in your house.

It’s a familiar story. Kids grow up, parents sell the family home and move to some sunnier climate, some condo somewhere, some smaller abode. We grown-up kids box up all the junk from our childhoods – dusty ballet shoes, high school textbooks, rolled-up posters of Adam Ant – and wonder where home went.I’m not a sentimental person, I told myself. I don’t need to see old 3922 26th Street before we sell the place. I even skipped the part where I return home to salvage my mementos from the garage. I let my parents box up the stuff, which arrived from San Francisco like the little package you get when released from jail. You know, here’s your watch, the outfit you wore in here, some cash. Here’s the person you once were.

After a year, San Francisco called me home again. I missed it. High rents had driven all my friends out of the city to the suburbs, so I made myself a reservation at a motel and drove there in a rented car. The next day, I cruised over to my old neighborhood. There was the little corner store my mom used to send me to for milk, the familiar fire station, the Laundromat.

I cried like the sap I never thought I’d be. I sat in the car, staring at my old house, tears welling up. It had a fresh paint job, the gang graffiti erased from the garage door. New curtains hung in the window.

I walked up and touched the doorknob like it was the cheek of a lover just home from war. I noticed the darker paint where our old mezuzah used to be. I sat on our scratchy brick stoop, dangling my legs off the edge, feeling as rootless as I’ve ever felt.

You can’t go home in a lot of ways, I discovered that night, when I met up with an ex-boyfriend. “Great to see you,” he said, giving me a tense hug. “The thing is, I only have an hour.”

What am I, the LensCrafters of social engagements?

As it happens, his new girlfriend wasn’t too keen on my homecoming. We had a quick drink and he dropped me back off at my low-rent motel, where I scrounged up change to buy some Whoppers from the vending machine for dinner. I settled in for the evening to watch “Three to Tango” on HBO.

“You had to watch a movie with a ‘Friends’ cast member,” said my brother, nodding empathetically.

“That’s sad.”

My brother and I met up at our old house, like homing pigeons, though we could no longer go inside. We walked down the street for some coffee, and I filled him in on my trip. He convinced me to stay my last night at his new place in San Bruno, just outside the city. I’ll gladly pay $98 a night just for the privilege of not inconveniencing anyone, but he actually seemed to want me.

“I love having guests,” he insisted. So I went.

It’s surprising how late in life you still get that “I can’t believe I’m a grown-up” feeling, like when your big brother, the guy who used to force you to watch “Gomer Pyle” reruns, owns his own place. It was small and sparse and he had just moved in, but it was his. The refrigerator had nothing but mustard, a few cheese slices and 14 cans of Diet 7-Up.

We picked up some Taco Bell, rented a movie, popped some popcorn, and I fell asleep on his couch. Insomniacs rarely fall asleep on people’s couches, I assure you. I don’t know why I slept so well after agonizing all weekend over the question of home, if I had one anymore, where it was. I only know that curled up under an old sleeping bag, the sound of some second-rate guy movie playing in the background, my brother in a chair next to me, I felt safe and comfortable, and maybe that’s part of what home is.

But it’s not the whole story. As much as I’d like to buy the clichés about home being where the heart is, or as Robert Frost put it, “The place where when you have to go there, they have to take you in,” a part of me thinks the truth is somewhere between the loftiness of all those platitudes and the concreteness of that wooden door on 26th Street.

I’ll probably be casing that joint from time to time for the rest of my life. I’ll sit outside, like a child watching someone take away a favorite toy, and silently scream, “Mine!”

Sisters Recapture Their Heritage


Gloria Hernandez Trujillo, 51, grew up in what she thought was a traditional Catholic home in Monterey Park. Her mother sent the children to mass and catechism classes at Our Lady of Solitude church in East Los Angeles. Trujillo made her first communion at the age of 8, wearing the requisite white frilly dress. At 12, she was confirmed, like many of the Latino children in her Eastside neighborhood.

Trujillo, a tax administrator, still lives in her childhood home, but she now worships in a synagogue rather than a church. On Rosh Hashana last week, she attended Conservative services at UCLA. And on Yom Kippur, she will take a day off from work to engage in what has become a deeply significant personal ritual. In the modest house where she grew up Catholic, she will fast and pray from a siddur written in the medieval Spanish-Jewish language of Ladino. “I will think of my ancestors,” says Trujillo, whose forbears could not publicly observe Yom Kippur without fear of torture and death.

Eleven years ago, while researching her family tree, Trujillo learned that she is descended from Crypto-Jews, those forced to convert to Catholicism in 15th-century Spain and Portugal. Her forbears were among the secret Jews who fled the Inquisition to become the first settlers of the state of New Mexico. Today she is president of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies, a scholarly group that gathers and exchanges information about Crypto-Jews.

Ask Trujillo if she was surprised to learn of her Jewish roots, and she shakes her head. “It makes sense,” she says. “In church, I never felt connected or comfortable. I never felt I belonged.”

Then there were the strange family stories her mother and aunts used to exchange around the kitchen table. They reminisced about Trujillo’s grandfather, born in Taos, N.M., who set foot in a church only once in his life, on his wedding day. Thereafter, he walked his wife to church but never crossed the threshold. Instead he said his prayers alone at home, in the basement. He always wore his hat indoors.

Trujillo’s grandmother, meanwhile, cleaned house every Friday morning and used different pots and pans for different dishes. When asked why, she would reply, simply, that her mother had done the same. Whenever a relative died, family members used to invert all the mirrors in the deceased’s house.

The stories so fascinated Trujillo that she decided to research her family tree 18 years ago. With her younger sister, Mona, she began perusing microfilm copies of birth and death certificates at historical archives in Colorado and New Mexico. It was during a visit to the New Mexico state archives in Santa Fe in 1987 that she learned the truth.

As Trujillo recalls, she was rattling off some of her forbears’ surnames when a distinguished-looking scholar suddenly looked up from his work. Dr. Stanley Hordes, New Mexico’s former state historian, urgently beckoned Trujillo into an adjoining room. “He said he was researching my mother’s line,” the tax administrator says, “and that there was strong evidence my family was Jewish.”

Four hundred years ago, Hordes told Trujillo, the Inquisition targeted her family and others for the crime of “Judaizing” (secretly practicing Judaism) in the Kingdom of Neuvo Leon in northeastern Mexico. They arrested the governor and burned most of his family at the stake. The remainder of the accused fled north to settle what would become the province of New Mexico in 1598. Their descendants passed down Jewish traditions, knowingly or unknowingly, throughout the generations.

Trujillo, transfixed, eagerly took in the news. “It was one of those moments when everything falls into place,” she says.

But her relatives did not believe the story; even Mona was initially skeptical. “The first words out of my mouth were: ‘That’s impossible! Latinos are Catholic’,” Mona says. Relatives were convinced, however, when the sisters discovered menorahs at a cousin’s home in Sacramento.

Mona, who had also felt like an outsider in church, soon joined Trujillo in an avid search for books on New Mexico, the Inquisition and Sephardic Jewry. The sisters visited Toledo, Spain, to search for records of a 17th-century ancestor who was imprisoned after Inquisitors learned he was circumcised.

Trujillo and her sister also began attending a Conservative synagogue in Alhambra and Introduction to Judaism classes at the home of Rabbi William Gordon. Trujillo underwent a “rite of return” ceremony two years ago, where she received her Hebrew name, Hannah Leah. Both sisters hope to formally convert back to Judaism.

As the holiest day of the Jewish year approached last week, Mona reflected that she has found her place in the world. “I know who I am and where I come from,” she says. “And if I have children, I will raise them Jewish. Part of my heritage was kept from me, because of the events of long ago. I have reclaimed my roots.”

Easing the Pain


Ethan Gura doesn’t remember his sister. Still, he cannot forgether. He can’t forget that Rebecca Alexandra Gura died in 1991 after afour and a half year battle with leukemia. She was then six yearsold. He was three.

Now, at age 9, Ethan is a veteran of various therapies, alldesigned to help him deal with his anger and sense of loss. We mightwonder why someone who faced bereavement so young would continue todwell on it. But Ethan’s earliest recollections are of his parentsleaving him with a babysitter so they could spend hours by hissister’s hospital bed. Their grief is still fresh in his mind, as isthe fact that “they didn’t have time to spend with me.” And he can’tshake the fear that someone else in the family — his parents,himself — might get sick and die. His anxieties have affected hisschoolwork, as well as his interaction with others.

This past summer, the family rabbi suggested a new possibility forEthan: a support group run through the Children’s Bereavement Programof Jewish Big Brothers of Los Angeles.

The Big Brothers organization, which has been in the L.A. areasince 1915, has traditionally focused on the children of singleparent families. But since 1994, it has been reaching out to Jewishyoungsters who have suffered the death of a loved one. Under thedirection of Julie Gould, a licensed clinical social worker, thesekids come together for eight weeks of intensive sessions in whichthey use art, games, and storytelling to get a handle on theirfeelings.

The groups are limited to Jewish children because a discussion ofJewish burial and mourning customs is part of the mix. The mainthrust of the group is not to endorse the Jewish way in death andmourning (to borrow the title from Rabbi Maurice Lamm’s classic bookon the subject). Rather it is to help children lessen their ownfeeling of isolation by showing them that others, too, are strugglingto cope with similar emotions. Another key goal is to give childrenthe tools to move beyond their loss.

At the end of his eight-week program, Ethan seemed eager to sharewith me what his bereavement group was like. He joined in willingly,because “I had so many feelings I couldn’t get out. I didn’t want tobe sad all the time.” But how did he feel about being grouped withchildren who ranged in age from six to 12? On a school playground,kids of different ages don’t normally mingle in friendly fashion. Butwithin the group Ethan found a common bond: “They all had somethingthat was sad and different about them . . . they had the samesadness.” This despite the fact that their losses were not identical.Two children had lost parents; one was mourning a dead grandfather.Ethan matter-of-factly explained that one girl’s mother had died fromtaking drugs; one boy’s best friend had succumbed to a brain tumor.

Ethan remembers art projects , journal writing, and “coolactivities.” A particular favorite was “jumping on bubble paper toget out our anger.” He also discovered that writing was a therapeuticway to soothe turbulent emotions. At one session, the kids learnedthat death comes in many forms. That day “I drew a picture aboutthings people could die from,” including drugs, guns, and carcrashes, “like Princess Diana.”

A highlight of the eight weeks is the Cloud Trip, which starts aswhat therapists call a “guided imagery exercise.” The kids lie on thefloor, close their eyes, and go on an imaginary journey with theirloved one. They ride in a vehicle of their own choosing (Ethan pickeda motor scooter), and travel through a fantasy environment which maybe their personal interpretation of Heaven. They enjoy one another’scompany in these magical surroundings, then quietly say good-bye.Next the children separate, and on huge sheets of paper, draw thescenarios they’ve envisioned. At length, they re-assemble to sharethe fruits of their imaginings.

When I talked to Ethan, he seemed serene in his acceptance of whathad happened to his sister. He calmly explained how he used to fearthat his mother would suffer Rebecca’s fate, but that now heunderstands better how such things work. He’s planning to tell hisyounger brother about Rebecca, but sagely notes that Alexander, atthree, is still too young to comprehend that death is a part of life.Maybe when he’s four or five. . . .

I doubt (as do Ethan’s parents) that the Jewish Big Brothersprogram will wipe away all of his anxieties. There is, for one thing,no money budgeted to follow up on a child’s progress six months afterhis group has held its celebratory last-session pizza party. But itseems clear that Big Brothers has given Ethan a soothing newperspective on something that (in the words of his father Dennis)”he’ll be processing till he’s an adult.”

Bereavement is very much in the news as I write this, and thebroad consensus is that the stiff-upper-lip approach to loss is nothealthy for anyone. It’s encouraging that the Jewish traditionsanctions the sharing of sorrow: Rabbi Lamm’s “The Jewish Way ofDeath and Mourning” in fact makes clear that Judaism encourages openexpressions of grief, within the context of the ancient rituals. ButLamm’s book, like most others which discuss death from a Jewishperspective, is no help to a child who’s looking for ways to copewith an adult-sized sorrow. I’m glad that Jewish Big Brothers hasstepped forward to help children like Ethan acknowledge their painand move on.

Beverly Gray writes about education from Santa Monica.

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